Night of the Party by Tracey Mathias
Edited by Linas Alsenas
Published by Scholastic in May 2018
432 pages in paperback
Cover by Liam Crane
a thrilling post-Brexit romance
Summary from Foyles
How do you speak out if you have no rights?
After withdrawing from the EU, Britain is governed by a far-right nationalist party. Its flagship policy is the British Born edict, which allows only those born in Britain to live here. Everyone else is an “illegal”, subject to immediate arrest and deportation.
But an election is coming soon, and all the polls point to a big loss for the ruling party.
18-year-old Londoner Ash is wrestling with grief after the loss of his sister Sophie, who died in a tragic drug-related accident at a party. He meets Zara on a stalled tube train and immediately falls for her.
But Zara has secrets: not only is she an “illegal”, but she’s the only person who knows the truth about Sophie’s death.
Associating with Zara could jeopardize Ash’s future, and if Zara comes forward with what she knows about the night Sophie died, she’ll have no future in Britain at all.
The election could save them. Or will it only bring disaster?
A reader’s perspective
Note the neon orange on cover, and the political party emblem with fascist overtones (created by Liam Crane). Decidedly edgy speculative fiction – just the far side of contemporary. Perfectly targeted at its YA audience. A great read for (almost) anyone else.
Tag line: this election is personal.
This is not a honey-sweet love story, nor an angsty teen ‘nobody understands me’ novel. Neither is it a dull political lecture. It manages to avoid all those pitfalls.
There is, perhaps, rather more poetry and humour than you might expect. Any novel crediting T.S.Eliot , Anon 14thc and Robert Graves is fine by me – but finally, it’s not about me. Both Ash and Zara engage the reader and draw them into this thriller. You have to know what happens to them.
Only right to warn you there are a few shocks along the way. Things decidedly do not go according to plan. (A boring novel if it did). It should be snapped up for a film – or even a box set. There’s tension, drama and important themes – but most of all, there are people you care about.
I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t have read it if I didn’t know the writer. Not my sort of thing – I don’t review much YA, few thrillers and even more rarely romance. But I am glad I did.
A Writer and Editor’s View
I’ve mentioned the Scholastic editor, Linas Alsenas in the credits above. I’ve read Tracey’s previous children’s books A Fragment of Moonswood and The Singing War. (Still awaiting the third; hint, hint.) They are lush, intricate fantasies quite distinct from Night of the Party. I’m fascinated how they’ve worked together on a new style and genre – and yet kept the esssentials of Tracey’s voice. It can’t have been easy, but though writing for a different age-group, the same intelligence, authenticity and heart come through.
Elements I’ve enjoyed from a professional point of view (which means those I’d like to steal)
- two well-defined voices telling their versions of events
- use of poetry in a ‘serious’ book
- character-driven humour in a ‘serious’ book
- a really clever surprise (no spoilers)
- seeing a tone for a different readership doesn’t mean using a falsified voice
- a writer’s letter to the reader can be fascinating
Thanks, Tracey, for making me read outside my comfort zone and find fresh skills to appreciate/pilfer!