May 9, 2017
Who cared if he’d grow out of it? That didn’t make it any less true in those painful and euphoric days when it was happening. The truth was always now, even if you were young. Especially if you were young.
I am so torn. I'm not even sure how I feel about Release overall. It's like there are two books in here - one I absolutely loved, and the other I just didn't enjoy at all.
Ness is one of those authors who never writes the same book, or same kind of book, twice. Liking one is no guarantee you will like another. I absolutely adored his Chaos Walking trilogy - The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men, I thought A Monster Calls was a beautiful middle grade book, and I loved what Ness did in More Than This. However, The Crane Wife didn't work for me, and I thought The Rest of Us Just Live Here was clever, but boring.
Release is a strange story, heavily influenced by Mrs. Dalloway and Judy Blume's Forever. In fact, it's a little meta for my tastes (kind of like The Rest of Us Just Live Here was) and even includes direct references to Forever in the story, whilst the first and last lines are plays on the first and last lines of Mrs. Dalloway.
When I said it felt like there were two books in one, that's because the story alternates between a day in the life of Adam Thorn, and a weird, kinda magical realism ghost story about a faun and a queen, which clearly had something to do with the recent death of a meth addict, but I'm still not 100% sure I get what the hell was going on.
The faun wishes to tell her, tell her that she is caught, his Queen, snagged and bound by a frightened soul. He needs to tell her that she is in danger of becoming lost forever, but he cannot. He can only look at the sun, less than an hour from its midday peak. The faun is worried. The faun is very worried.
Adam Thorn's story, on the other hand, is very powerful. He is the gay son of a preacher, struggling against his family's beliefs, trying to ward off the sexual advances of his boss, and working through some serious heartbreak... all in the space of one day. The book manages to cover sex, love, friendship, family and loss in so few pages, and in such a moving way.
Adam's chapters are hard-hitting, beautiful and sad. His ultimate realization towards the end of the book carries with it that certain bittersweetness that only comes with the letting go of someone you loved deeply.
But I just didn't enjoy the experimental style of the other chapters. I'm sure it was supposed to be deep and meaningful, but the choice to add it felt cold and intellectual in a book that was otherwise so emotionally tense. I wanted more Adam, less weird.
I would hesitate before recommending this book. Though Adam's story was compelling and his character so well-drawn, a lot of this short book is taken up with metaphoric wanderings into the weird and - sometimes it seemed - nonsensical. But maybe smarter people than me will appreciate it. Otherwise, I recommend reading Silvera's History Is All You Left Me instead.
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