For politically minded teenagers, Tracey Mathias’s Night of the Party(Scholastic) is a furious dystopian shoulder-shake, indicting the apathy that allows both rights and ethics to be quietly discarded. Post-Brexit, an increasingly insular England elects the far right Party, who vow to deport everyone not British Born, declaring it a criminal offence to fail to report an illegal. Ash has been grieving since his sister’s mysterious drug-related death; her friend Zara, with whom he is gradually falling in love, may have answers for him. But Zara is not “BB” … Skewering both the inhuman bureaucracy of the detention centre and the casual acceptance of horrors, Mathias’s debut is a hundred-decibel alarm call. The Guardian May 2017
Tracey Mathias’s debut, Night of the Party (Scholastic, £7.99), similarly sets itself the difficult task of writing the overtly political while still holding the reader’s attention through story.
More than a year after his sister’s death at a party, Ash meets Zara – who seems to know more about that night than she’s telling. When he discovers why she hasn’t spoken up – that she’s not “BB” (“British Born”) and therefore “an illegal” who he should report, it opens his eyes. Political debate has always been abstract for him, and even his school friends are remarkably blase: “it’s not fascism . . . it’s common sense,” one declares, but still shrugs off the idea that any of this is important enough to fall out over.
Another shocker of a night – the return of “the Party” to power after an election everyone predicted they’d lose – makes it clear “there are some arguments you can’t avoid”, though. Within days the house searches and road blocks begin, leading to Zara’s imprisonment in a “deportment centre
The best dystopias always feel plausible; it’s rare to read one that feels it could be only a few years away. “We didn’t think it would get so bad so quickly,” Zara recalls. A thrilling story with a terrifying real-world resonance.
‘YA Gets Political’ The Irish Times July 7 2018
The most terrifying aspect of the dystopia described by Tracey Mathias in this powerful YA thriller is just how credible and immediate it seems. In a post-Brexit Britain, governed by a far-right, nationalist party, the idea of a ‘hostile environment’ has been taken to its bleakly logical conclusion. Legislation divides everyone into one of two, self-explanatory categories: British Born, or illegal – and the latter must live in constant fear of arrest and deportation. When 18-year-old Ash, still grieving the drug-related death of his sister, meets Zara on a stalled tube train, a star-crossed relationship develops between the pair, each of them holding their own secrets and pain, and both with the potential to change the course of the other’s life, for better or for worse. Told with convincing emotional authenticity by the two protagonists in turn, this is a story that will keep readers gripped through every twist and turn – and leave them with plenty to think about. (Teach Secondary)