Book Week: "Party" by Tom Leveen

Already whipped through your summer reading materials? No worries. All week, Jackalope Ranch contributors will review candidates for your nightstand. Have a suggestion for us? Leave it in the comment section. First up this week: "Party" by Tom Leveen.

​We all have our guilty little reading pleasures -- you know, the books we shove under a magazine on the beach, or only read late at night under the covers. Some like westerns, others prefer steamy romances. In some circles, the Twilight series falls into this category. 

For me, it's all about the YA. And I'm not talking about "The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood," though I am a little embarrassed to admit I read and enjoyed that, several years ago. No, I'm talking Young Adult. 

I love the classics -- "Lisa Bright and Dark" and "Go Ask Alice" have topped the list since I was in high school myself. But from time to time I'll grab a new one, too, just to keep up with the genre.

I have no good reason to read these books. My own kids are far too young for them, and I'm not a junior high or high school teacher. I just happen to like tales of pre-teen and teen angst. (I bet that'll stop when the aforementioned kids come of age -- see my review of Aimee Bender's "The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake" on Chow Bella to see my too-close-to-home reference there.)

(read more after the jump)

The benefit (and drawback) of a good YA novel is that it tends to be a quick read. Thus I was annoyed with myself for lugging a hard-back copy of Tom Leveen's "Party" on a weekend trip last week -- I finished so quickly, it was hardly worth the luggage space. 

Still, I was glad I read it. Leveen has one of the best first YA novel lines I've ever read: "I'm the girl nobody knows until she commits suicide."

Tell me you're not intrigued. The girl in question is Beckett, one of a handful of kids en route to a blow-out beer party on a summer night in a small central California beach town. The conceit for the book is brilliant and simple: Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different party guest. By the end, the night's concluded. 

Along the way, a lot happens. Much of it rings true; Leveen has a real ear for teen angst and tells the story well. Toward the end, it gets a little matchy-matchy in terms of how nicely things all tie up in a ball, but it's hard to blame the author -- hey, the party has to end sometime. There's a racial match-up that felt a little contrived, as well, but I pushed past those characters to the ones I was interesetd in and wound up quite satisfied. 

And as for Beckett, the girl from the first line? You'll have to read the book to find out what happens to her.

My only real gripe is that Leveen, who is from Phoenix, didn't set his story here. But I just got word that his next book takes place in the Valley, so I've got something to look forward to.

Want more? Come back tomorrow, and check out Chow Bella all week for food-related books. 

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