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Book Review: Tom Leveen’s ‘Party’ a Tale of 11 Santa Barbara Teens

A graduation party provides a common thread as the teens' lives and stories are woven together

On the day you graduated from high school, how much did you know about your classmates? You had several close friends who you knew everything about, and who knew everything about you. There were undoubtedly many more friends you passed in the hallway, or sat with through endless classes that you only thought you knew.

Party by Tom Leveen
Party by Tom Leveen

Party by Tom Leveen is the story of 11 Santa Barbara teens on the day and night of the biggest grad party. At first glance it seems that, though these teens passed one another in the halls every day and even called one another friends, they really don’t know one another at all.

The 11 represent a cross section of the modern high school. There’s the athlete looking for a big scholarship, the bad girl, the loner, the lady’s man, the skaters, the religious, the immigrant outcast, and the good girl who holds it all together.

Leveen tells their stories from each student’s point of view, revealing gradually throughout the story how all of their lives are intertwined and revealing each one’s deepest secret.

The party itself is represented as a fairly typical party, with just about all of the major characters there only to drink and perhaps hook up with someone. Too much alcohol leads to some bad decisions — from unprotected sex to a racially motivated beating. By the end of the night, the students come to grips with their bad decisions and start the new day ready to face the consequences.

Some parents may find the lack of adult supervision of the teens and the party disturbing, but it is a device that allows the characters to grow and change. Some bad language and descriptions of physical relations leave Leveen’s debut novel most appropriate for older teens.

» Party by Tom Leveen

» April 2010

» Random House Children’s Books

» Hardcover, 240 pages

» ISBN: 9780375864360

— Carol Ann Chybowski, who received a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from UCSB, is an aspiring author with short stories in the local anthologies A Community of Voices. The former Santa Barbara resident resides in Southern California.

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