CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 8 . . . . December 7, 2007
House Party is a new short novel in the “Orca Soundings” series. As a high interest-low vocabulary novel, it presents a classic contemporary theme of significance to many teens. What teen hasn't either been to a house party gone wild or at least heard about one? And to those who have experienced it first hand, they know the terror of how quickly control is lost and chaos takes hold. This is a story about how Casey was coaxed into hosting a party while her parents were away for the weekend and the disastrous results of this broken trust.
New to town, Casey has few friends except Jen who is also on the edge of the peer circle. They both want to impress and earn some new friends. Together, they hatch a plan to host a small party, but it becomes clear that Jen is coercing and misleading Casey about how many are actually invited. As kids arrive in larger and larger groups bringing alcohol and bad manners, Casey slowly realizes that she can no longer control what is happening in her own home. The damage escalates from spiking the punch and spilling wine to sneaking upstairs for sex, stealing her parents' things, and causing willful damage to the house and furnishings. By the time the girls realize their mistake and the police arrive, the house and contents are damaged. Jen's mom and Casey's aunt help the girls clean up, and, despite the support, there is anxiety about the parents’ returning and Casey’s having to face them with the truth.
Unfortunately, this story comes across too much like a lesson, and it's easy for the reader to blame the bad friend (who is introduced as "Jen had a little bit of a weight problem." Why was that necessary?) Casey's major fault seems to be in trusting her friend too much and not being able to say no. The adults, including the police, are a touch too forgiving and supportive. There is a sense of patronizing that kids would pick up on and be turned off by. We don't see anyone really upset or emotional, and the punishment appears to be established well before the parents (homeowners) even arrive on the scene.
The language is also a problem. Yes, it is written in an easily accessible form, but it leaves the dialogue stiff and the writing uninspiring. The idea is relevant, but the delivery weak. I don't think this would be one of the favourite in this series.
Recommended with reservations.
Diana Lynn Wilkes has taught grades K to 10, is an English major with a Bachelor of Education from Simon Fraser University, and holds a Master of Arts Degree in Children's Literature from the University of British Columbia.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.