Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Afterparty by Ann Redisch Stampler

Afterparty by Ann Redisch Stampler
Release Date – December 31, 2013
Publisher Website –  Simon and Schuster
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  384 pages
My Rating- 4/5
**received from publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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 that ever happened 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.

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...

This explosive, sexy, and harrowing follow-up to Ann Redisch Stampler's spectacular teen debut, Where It Began, reveals how those who know us best can hurt us most.
There is this little cult classic movie called Poison Ivy. It stars Drew Barrymore as a bad girl who lives up to the name, and Sara Gilbert as a sheltered, lonely outcast who gets in over her head when her and 'Ivy' become friends. Afterparty immediately filled me with nostalgia for this movie, because of the similar feelings in invokes. It's dangerous, sexy, and has a twisted female friendship at it's core. I knew I was going to enjoy this one as this began to unravel, and I wasn't disappointed.

The setting of the novel, Los Angeles, could not be more perfect for this story. It's sexy; all glitz and glamour. There is also an undercurrent filled with drugs, parties, and danger. It's the perfect mix of balmy nights and beach filled days that provides a pitch perfect backdrop for this story.

The tension in this novel is kept tight throughout. The build up to the 'Afterparty' is thrust into the spotlight in the very opening passages of the novel. We are told to expect something, and the countdown is torture. As things spiral out of control, the tension increases until it finally pops. It's effective, and engrossing.

There are a few fun twists, one of which made me gasp out loud. I was delighted that the ground work had been laid and I didn't put the pieces together until it was revealed. It's rare that it happens, and this one certainly took me by surprise. The way the story is told is fun, and thrilling because you're on edge the entire time, waiting for the next bomb to drop.

There is so much going on in this novel that will resonate with teens. It's like a heightened version of scenarios that are all too familiar. We have the classic struggle between family and friends. Emma is the 'good girl'. Her father pushes her to remain that way. She feels pressure and struggles with the side of her that wants freedom. Her father is over-the-top strict. He has his reasons (which added to the story) but Emma just wants to be a teenager. She wants to mess up, make mistakes. Her father just doesn't want those mistakes to be ones she can't take back, and so he is over cautious. This leaves Emma open to temptation, and Siobhan can tempt. This struggle of push/pull between parents and friends is a defining part of your teen years, as is finding that middle ground that is all you. Emma walks this line, and we see her begin to define herself.

The friendship between Emma and Siobhan is the definition of twisted. Siobhan pushes Emma, and at first it's thrilling and exciting. Things quickly spiral out of control though. We are left in the dark mostly about Siobhan's motivations. It's unclear how much she's lying, and what is the truth. This is Emma's story, and while I would have loved to know more about Siobhan, it's right that she remains just out of reach. It adds to her allure, and her danger.

My only minor issue is that after a stellar opening and set up the end doesn't deliver as big a punch as the rest of the novel. It tapers out a little. There are some deliciously wicked moments latter half of the novel that do stand out, it just doesn't feel as powerful as the very strong first half. The way that things are left ambiguous in the climax of the novel was a great touch. The fact that not everything is wrapped up felt authentic.

A story of getting lost while finding yourself, defining yourself, and learning that sometimes the only person you can save is yourself. Afterparty is sexy, tension filled read that had me turning the pages to see where this roller coaster would go next.

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