My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I really, really wanted to love this book. Ness is by far one of my favorite authors and while all of his books are very different they have all been great in their own way. That’s not to say that Release isn’t great (it is), I think it’s a simple case of this book not being for me.
Ness has said himself that he was making the most of his current popularity by taking a risk and writing the book he always wanted to write, the book he wishes had been around when he was a gay 16 year old looking for something he could relate to.
The story is based on Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Wolfe and Forever . . . by Judy Blume (neither of which I’ve read) and like Mrs Dalloway all of the events take place over the course of a day. Also just like Mrs Dalloway, the day begins with main character Adam Thorn going to get flowers and ends with a party but this is a day with a lot of changes and challenges for Adam. It’s a day of endings, heartbreak, confrontation, sex and love. There’s also a side story involving a spirit which eventually collides with Adam’s story.
For me Adam’s story was by far the more compelling. If I’m completely honest the whole ghost/spirit side left me completely confused and I ended up kind of skimming a lot of it as I wasn’t sure what was going on and kind of didn’t care. For this reason I probably would have enjoyed the book more had it just stuck with Adam but I suppose a normal YA contemporary probably wouldn’t be very Ness.
It’s definitely an action packed day for Adam and as always the author manages to write some truly memorable moments, the confrontation with his Preacher father being one. I’m not actually sure if I liked Adam. I found him a little on the mopey and miserable side. He does have good reason for this but I really didn’t like the way he treated certain people within the novel.
BFF Angela was for me a much more likeable and relateable character. She is the one who brings a lot of the much needed humor to the story and I kind of want her as my best friend.
The writing is as always wonderful (I would expect nothing less) and the author does create a strong cast of complex characters and brilliant dialogue. I did feel like it was maybe a little bit slow in places but I think my biggest problem was that I didn’t connect. I could definitely appreciate the writing and the story but I found it all too easy to put it down and go off and read something else.
I don’t think however that I’m the right audience for this story. I think others who are struggling with similar issues to those dealt with in the book or who can relate more to Adam will get so much more out of this book.
I definitely applaud Ness for creating the book that he wanted and for putting something new and unique out there for an audience desperately in need of it. It just wasn’t for me.
Synopsis (from GoodReads)
Inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever, Release is one day in the life of Adam Thorn, 17. It’s a big day. Things go wrong. It’s intense, and all the while, weirdness approaches…
Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It’s a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won’t come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.