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Book Review: Afterparty by Ann Redisch Stampler

Emma has always been the dutiful daughter, tagging along with her academic father as he moves from college to college.  For her, getting to stay in glamorous Los Angeles is almost too good to be true.  When she meets the worldly, glamorous Siobhan, she’s completely taken in by the world in which Siobhan inhabits.  She’s fun and alluring and maybe a little dangerous.  Despite her father’s attempts to derail her social life, Emma gets in deeper and deeper with Siobhan.  As long as Siobhan’s in control, things are fine.  But when Emma starts making her own choices, Siobhan doesn’t seem so secure.  All of it might just explode at Afterparty, the biggest event of the year.

Ann Redisch Stampler’s novel has the glimmery cover telling readers to expect a twisty mystery, but what’s inside its pages is actually much more character-driven than first meets the eye.  There’s a lot here about female friendships and family loyalties and growing up, and readers expecting a fast-paced, dark story about a possible murder might look elsewhere.  But for readers who want to sink their teeth into some characters, this is an excellent choice.

Siobhan is a master manipulator, and it’s easy to see why the sheltered Emma would fall so hard for her friendship.  What Stampler does so well is create a believable, compelling friendship between the two girls.  She manages to illustrate how quickly these bonds can form and how harrowing a relationship like this can be for two young teens.  It’s well done, and it’s done with a lot of care.

The exploration of relationships doesn’t stop there, though: much time and space is given to Emma’s relationship with her controlling father.  His rules about how she will conduct herself only become more strict as she becomes embroiled in Siobhan’s life.  There are other relationships at play here, too: Emma’s romantic relationship with Dylan and her tales of her exploits to her very sheltered friend Megan round out the characters in this cast.

Realistic characters and good dialogue help make this book as compelling as it is–but it felt overly long at times, and is definitely meant for readers who like a good character study over fast-paced action.

Afterparty by Ann Redisch Stampler. Simon Pulse: 2014. ARC provided by publisher for review.

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