Release by Patrick Ness

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Release by Patrick Ness

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Riffing on Mrs Dalloway, this latest novel from Patrick Ness takes place over the course of a single day. A dual narrative follows Adam, a gay teenager with evangelical Christian parents, and the ghost of a murdered girl as she traces the steps that led up to her death. Ambitious and different, this is a provoking read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: May 2017
Publisher: Walker
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1406331171

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Shortlisted for the 2018 CILIP Carnegie Medal

Adam lives in small-town America in a deeply religious household. His father is an evangelical preacher. His brother is at a Christian college training to be an evangelical preacher. Adam is used to a restricted life and he is also used to an atmosphere of suspicion. Because Adam is gay. And this must be unspoken because to acknowledge it would lead to...

... well, best not to think about that.

Patrick Ness's latest novel takes its inspiration partly from Judy Blume's classic teen novel Forever, and partly from Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway. It takes place over the course of a single day, as Adam gets ready for his ex-boyfriend's going-away party. As the day ticks on, we learn how Adam can't quite break his attachment to his ex Enzo, how he keeps his current boyfriend Linus a secret from his father, how his boss at his part-time job is the most creeptastic boss ever, and how much he relies on his best friend for an outlet when there are so many secrets in his life. Punctuating Adam's day are supernatural passages which follow the ghost of a girl murdered in the town the week before as she retraces the events that led up to her death.

I fell in love with Adam. A naturally reserved, introspective boy who appears secretive to his prescriptive parents, his inner life is a maelstrom. Enzo broke his heart and because he can't let go of the pain, he can't love Linus as he wants to love Linus. He's forced to keep secrets from his parents. He is jealous of his "perfect" brother. He is dealing with a handsy boss. His best friend and emotional crutch will be leaving soon and what then, without her? This day will be a defining one for Adam and Ness expresses the confused feelings and the intensity of them with honesty and beauty and heartbreak. I don't mind telling you that I wept.

I think the dual narrative in Release is going to be one of those Marmite choices for readers. I started out thinking it was mysterious and slightly impenetrable and cool. But then I got so into Adam and his inner world that the Queen's sections got in the way and I rushed through them. Which makes me a bad reader, right? I predict similar resistance from others, so let me say this. I am a bad reader. I am too enthusiastic. I rush through books, I can't help it. But I'm also a very good re-reader. I quite often get to the last page of a book, go straight back to the first page, and read it all over again. I did this with Release. And on the second reading, when I wasn't impatient for more Adam, I loved the Queen's sections. They are mysterious and slightly impenetrable and cool. And so, so beautifully written and evocative. And I'd like to explain to you why I think the two narratives catch one another so perfectly at the end but I can't see a way of doing that without spoiling it, so you'll just have to trust me. Sorry.

It's Patrick Ness. He wrote a new novel. He never does the same thing twice. And he is fearless about representing young people and telling their stories with an honesty that won't frighten them, but might frighten some of their parents. Good on him for that. So of course you won't want to miss Release.

I really enjoy it when YA authors take explicit inspiration from the classics. If this also appeals to you, you could look at Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman (Othello), Bloodtide by Melvin Burgess (Volsung Saga) or The Fallen Children by David Owen (The Midwich Cuckoos).

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