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Best friends forever—or else
BookPage® Review by Deborah Hopkinson
Emma Lazar has laid claim to the title of “Emma the Good” for years. She has always been determined to be the perfect daughter to her widowed dad as he pursues his psychiatric career from city to city. Now a junior, Emma can think of nothing better than to land in sunny L.A and begin school at the prestigious Latimer Country Day. But something happens to Emma’s reliable moral compass from her first day in her new life: The more she seeks to make the transformation to the California girl of her dreams, the more she begins to lose her way.
The lies start almost immediately and soon become a way of life. Emma teams up with Siobhan, an intense, sophisticated and bored classmate who loves to skip class, party and flirt with increasingly risky behavior. Siobhan believes in pacts and lists, and she comes up with a list of experiences for Emma to check off before the infamous year-end Latimer Afterparty, guaranteed to put fear into a father’s heart: “Make out. Do shots. Get stoned. Climb out windows. Go to many many parties. Hook up. Hook up all the way. Finish and we go to Afterparty.”
But even as Emma crosses off the milestones on her list, and strays from the “Good Emma” of the past, she begins to gain confidence in setting her own course and making the decisions that are right for her. What she doesn’t anticipate is Siobhan’s violent reaction to what she perceives as Emma’s betrayal of their friendship pact.
Readers will root for Emma as she negotiates difficult choices and a first romance, and grapples with finding her moral compass. But in her heartbreaking portrayal of Siobhan, a young woman spinning out of control with no one able to catch her—not even her best friend—author Ann Redisch Stampler reminds us that losing a friendship can be just as painful as a failed romance.
Jan 2014. 416 p. Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse, hardcover, $17.99. (9781442423244).
“Good girls don’t usually kill their best friend,” announces high-school junior Emma in an opening, flashforward scene that clinches immediate interest. After living all her life as a social recluse with an overprotective psychiatrist father, the teen seizes their relocation to L.A. and entrance into a prestigious prep school as an opportunity to redefine herself. When most of the female students appear to be straight out of the movie Mean Girls, Emma latches on to rebellious and manipulative Siobhan. Together they set their sights on Afterparty, the height of L.A. parties, and create a bucket list of bad behaviors to check off along the way. While Emma pretends to make Dylan just another check mark, she falls hard for this first love, causing a strain with ever-controlling Siobhan. But could it also lead to murder? In Stampler’s unflinching look at wealthy, decadent youth and complicated relationships, there are no easy answers. Realistic characters with tight dialogue add to the tension—and there’s plenty of it.
— Angela Leeper
After years of moving from place to place with her overprotective dad, Emma Lazar is thrilled that her dad’s latest job brings the two of them to Los Angeles.
When vicious mean girl Chelsea Hay insults Emma at her new swanky private day school, the equally sharp-tongued Siobhan Lynch stands up for Emma. Thus begins a friendship that is both compelling and harrowing. Siobhan is a master manipulator, and her charm, persistence and denials of wrongdoing lead Emma to forgive and forget ever-crueler behavior and actions. Siobhan wants the pair of them to go to Afterparty, a notorious yearly party that “beyond defies description.” To get sheltered Emma ready, she proposes a list of activities, mostly involving substance use and hookups with boys. The book begins with a sensational scene from its climax and the intimation that Emma will kill her best friend, but the story is much more character-driven than the opening suggests. At the center are Emma’s relationships: navigating her father’s rules and his disappointment when she breaks them, crushing on and getting close to dreamy Dylan Kahane, debriefing with her even-more-sheltered friend Megan, and being drawn into Siobhan’s increasingly reckless agenda.
Aside from a few avoidable misunderstandings between Emma and Dylan, this is a gripping and sometimes downright scary look at friendship and manipulation. (Fiction. 14 & up)
From Susan Francis:
Afterparty reads like a cross-over of genres into psychological thriller territory – a sort of YA Gone Girl.
The writing is smart and perceptive and I am sure there are many out there who will be able to relate to much of what occurs in this book, be they YAs with the experiences still current or adults looking back on past experiences.
From Becca Jayne at Pretty Little Memoirs:
The plot for Afterparty was striking and unique. Not only did it have the power to hold my attention, but it surprised me and threw me into a roller-coaster of complex situations, the fear of rebelling and not being accepted, and being in a self-destructive, yet fragile friendship. The thing I loved the most was the way that Ann had written that makes stopping reading almost impossible.
From Esther at Readers Dialogue:
[Afterparty] tells the story of repression, bad judgement, damaging friendships, and the true meaning of loyalty and trust. In a non-preachy, thoroughly enjoyable way. A great great book.
From Proud Book Nerd:
“I read this book lightning fast – couldn’t get through it fast enough! It’s a great, fast read. By great I mean well-written, interesting, and captivating. It’s like a train wreck – you know it’s not going to end well, but you just can’t look away. You have to see what happens.”
From Girl in the Woods Reviews:
“Ann gives you no time breathe at all; she expects you to experience this book all in one breath. It was a near-death experience; but it was worth it. If you want a hangover from reading a book, Afterparty’s the one you’re looking for. Deeply provocative and compelling, Afterparty is a story of a friendship gone wrong and the consequences of it: losing control and most of all, losing yourself.”
From Lovely Reads:
“Whoop! So I’m excited that Ann asked me to review her book and so glad I said yes! This book was sooooo good. Ann is a kick-ass writer.”
From Ashley (Goodreads Review):
“I thought the story itself was very interesting. This was one of those books that I couldn’t stop reading. I just had to find out what was going to happen. I think the author did an excellent job of representing teenage life in an honest and fearless way.”