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The Party Line

Children/Young Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

“Sharing a party line is like living in a small town: everyone knows your business and pretends they don’t know a thing.” In 1977 Lizzie McCall is happily living a fairly typical teenage life, getting ready to start high school. Then her family is transferred to Tehran, Iran, an exotic country thousands of miles away from her American suburban life. This launches an adventure for Lizzie that will shape the rest of her life. In the midst of making friends, going to class, and choosing the right boy to date, one of Lizzie’s favorite interests are the downstairs neighbors. Her family’s Tehran apartment shares a party line with them, and they are so intriguing that Lizzie makes a habit of listening in on their nighttime telephone conversations. But she goes too far one night and gets sucked into a world far beyond her teenage awareness. Young Lizzie is about to become a key player in the Iranian Revolution, and with it will come challenges greater than she’s ever faced before.
Reviews
Kirkus Review

Kirkus Review - Dec 2014

THE PARTY LINE

 

Alkofer’s debut describes events leading up to the Iranian Revolution from the point of view of a young American. Just before the start of her freshman year of high school, Lizzie McCall’s family moves to Tehran, Iran. Her father’s job as a defense contractor has brought them to the Middle Eastern city. Lizzie is determined to do well in school both academically and athletically in order to get into Yale. She also seems determined to live the life of a normal teenager. In an apartment building filled with Westerners and attending Tehran American High School, she’s somewhat sheltered from the way of life of average Iranians. However, through people like their housekeeper and the young man who serves as the apartment building’s maintenance man, Lizzie is exposed to some of the issues affecting Iranians in 1977. Meanwhile, thanks to the shared phone line in their building, she’s busy playing spy and listening in to the mysterious conversations of their Israeli-American neighbor. When violence erupts in the city, Lizzie’s whole life changes as the city she had enjoyed living in becomes frightening and dangerous. The book is a mixture of descriptions of ordinary teenage events, such as going on dates and hanging out with friends, and sometimes exciting events outlining Lizzie’s attempts at espionage or the historical changes taking place in the city. The novel, framed by Lizzie looking back on the events from later in life, tends to sag with long-winded passages such as, “Miss O’Connell is my French teacher and also the soccer coach. I met her the first week we moved here. She coaches the Pars Club swim team, and her husband is the tennis pro. Caroline took a few lessons from him.” Despite this, the book speeds along and realistically describes the events—some mundane, some shocking—that Lizzie experiences while living in Iran.

A sympathetic protagonist and abundance of historical details mitigate this novel’s shortcomings.

 

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