Welcome to my blog about books and the classroom.
A teacher's opinions on YA literature and the state of public education in America.

Party by Tom Leveen

2010. New York, New York: Random House. pp. 240. U.S. $16.99
Once upon a time, in Santa Barbara, California, there was a party. But this party wasn’t just a party; it was the party. The entire Santa Barbara High School student body would be there. Some would come just to kick-off the summer, others to say goodbye to friends after graduation. Some would come in hopes of getting laid, others solely for the entertainment. A few will come to make friends, and a couple will be there only to see if they’re noticed. Regardless of what brings them there, all will leave a little older and not a little changed. Though a police raid usually ends friendships, for these eleven teenagers—Beckett, Morrigan, Matt, Brent, Daniel, Max, Azize, Ryan, Anthony, Josh, and Ashley—it strengthens what was nearly lost and makes them better human beings.
Somehow, each of the characters winds up on Shoreline Drive for this party. Through each of their perspectives, the reader learns of the major conflicts: Anthony, a.k.a. A-train’s troubled season; Azize’s hunger to make American friends; Morrigan’s Daddy Complex; Josh’s God Complex; Ashley’s Beckett Complex; Beckett’s plans to say goodbye; and Max’s desperate crush on Beckett. And although this may seem like a too-complex group of conflicts, the way these characters interact and suspend the tension works well to keep readers flipping quickly.
This is a tough review to construct, but only because I usually walk through the main characters and their conflicts, and to do that, would mean telling the entire story, which would ruin readers experience with this unique tale. And since I’m not as creative as one Tom Leveen, I’m not going to attempt further summary. Instead, I’ll jump right into analysis.
Upon flip-through, I was intimidated by the various perspectives in control of the plot. My initial assumption was that this book would be like other multiple points-of-view works I’ve read, where each chapter focuses only on that character and it isn’t until the end that the stories entwine. However, in the second chapter of PARTY, the reader sees that this book is unlike other multiple POV novels. Each chapter does revolve around a different character, but each chapter builds on the previous chapter to add more depth the characters and plot already introduced. I found myself so impressed and intrigued that I couldn’t wait to get to each new character because a.) I became really invested early-on because it felt so read and b.) I wanted to see how Leveen did it!
In addition to his creative organization, I must say that I’m absolutely in awe of Leveen’s ability to build such distinct and totally believable voice for eleven characters in one novel. Maybe I’m alone here, but I find that teaching about voice is one of the most difficult aspects of teaching writing. How does one describe to students with minimal control over the English language that voice is the play of elements—diction, syntax, repetition, action, etc.—in a character’s emotional arc? But if I used a work like PARTY, I could show it. Matter of fact, if someone pulled out random swatches of prose from each chapter, I know I could—hands down—place that prose with the chapter whose character controlled it. I can see this being an awesome way to show students what voice is and how it affects the reader. Call me crazy, but I’m already formulating how to fit PARTY into my classroom study of The Canterbury Tales, to juxtapose the use of voice in building character from medieval literature to YA. And I can just see other teachers finding this novel and adopting an I’m-tired-of-trying-to-force-voice-instruction-using-only-canonical-literature-that-kids-want-to-burn attitude, one that prompts teachers to, once and for all, show students what “voice” means to characterization.
More than I love what I could do with this novel, more than I love how much students would love it, I love the tolerance and acceptance that subtly emanates from the plot. This work is witty and fun, creative and real; but, more than that, it’s important.

Comments

  1. Such a fantastic book! Leveen does a wonderful job of creating relatable characters and weaving these characters together in a manner which keeps the reader fascinated with the storytelling.

  2. Wow. I hadn’t heard of this book, but your review totally makes me want to read it! I need to see if they have this at my library!

  3. Fab review!!! Here’s mine if you don’t mind: http://lorxiebookreviews.blogspot.com/2012/10/party-by-tom-leveen.html

    Thanks and have a nice day! =D

  4. I just finished reading this book, and I loved it. Its a great read & the story plot is fantastic.

  5. the best book ever but i wish it was a series it would be better now i cant read ny of it anymore cause it was only a novel. so please make a a series it was the best i mourn about it cuz it was very awesome.

  6. I’ll send that recommendation to Tom Leveen. 🙂

    Have you read his newest, Manic Pixie Dream Girl? It’s also a fast and phenomenal.

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