Publisher: Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster)
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Review Copy from Author
Emma is tired of being good. Always the dutiful daughter to an overprotective father, she is the antithesis of her mother - whose name her dad won't even say out loud. That's why meeting Siobhan is the best thing to happen to her... and the most dangerous. Because Siobhan is fun and alluring and experienced and lives on the edge. In other words, she's everything Emma is not.I already knew that I love Ann Redisch Stampler's style from her book Where It Began. With Afterparty, the narrator's voice, Emma's voice, is so clear and so sharp. In fact, that sharpness becomes so important in the pivotal scene where Emma is drunk and high and who knows what else, and her voice actually loses some of that sharpness. To me, it highlighted the way that even as Emma categorized herself as "Bad Emma" throughout the book, she didn't even realize how not-bad she was being. Yes, she was sneaking out and disobeying her father, she was going to wild parties (kinda), she had a (gasp!) boyfriend, she lied and lied and lied - but those asides from her "conscience" and "compass" telling her that everything she was doing was so bad, all ignored the way she barely did anything really wrong or bad. Every time she sets out to do something crazy, she either backs out or does a modified version of it. That loss of sharpness is so jarring precisely because she hasn't been in a position to lose it throughout the whole book up until that point. She thinks she's wild, but if you count up and catalog her infractions, she's not that bad.
And it may be more than Emma can handle.
Because as intoxicating as her secret life may be, when Emma begins to make her own decisions, Siobhan starts to unravel. It's more than just Dylan, the boy who comes between them. Their high-stakes pacts are spinning out of control. Elaborate lies become second nature. Loyalties and boundaries are blurred. And it all comes to a head at the infamous Afterparty, where debauchery rages and an intense, inescapable confrontation ends in a plummet from the rooftop...
Of course, that's the point. She is no judge of what's beyond normal, what's crazy sh*t and what's only requiring secrecy because of her overprotective father. Now her father is brilliantly portrayed. He's not evil, she doesn't hate him. Actually, their relationship is pretty good and I'm kinda in love with their conversations toward the end of the book. But because she hasn't had normal experiences growing up, because she felt she had something to prove because of who her mother was, she has a totally skewed idea of normal. So first of all, when any casual observer could see that Siobhan is over the top out of control, Emma doesn't know the difference and thinks this is just normal teenager behavior. And then there's the voice telling her she's bad bad bad, which I know from experience does nothing to make you a better person and actually usually does the opposite.
All the relationships in the book, with the partial exception of Emma's father, are craaaazy. It seems like no one knows what normal even looks like. Siobhan's family, Dylan's family, Dylan himself - I'm sorry, I do like Dylan, but he is just as messed up as Siobhan and Emma in his own way. He's dark and mysterious, he seems to be holding it together, mature and aloof - and when his own crap blows up, he falls to pieces and makes every wrong decision he possibly could. It doesn't help any of this that just about every teenager is lying to at least one person about one thing at any given point.
Basically, this tells the story of repression, bad judgement, damaging friendships, and the true meaning of loyalty and trust. In a non-preachy, thoroughly enjoyable way. A great great book.