Author: Patrick Ness
Page Count: 277
Publisher: Walker Books
Original Publication Date: 2017
Genre(s): Young adult, Contemporary, LGBT
Adam Thorn is about to have one of the worst days of his life. Though he’s dating Linus now, today is the day of his ex-boyfriend’s going-away party, and he’s not exactly sure how he feels about that. Well, first he has to actually get to the party. He’s met with a very uncomfortable situation at work, he learns disappointing news about his best friend Angela, and he stands up to his Christian pastor of a father. And that is just the beginning.
Simultaneously, on the other side of town, out from the lake walks Katherine van Leuwen. She was murdered by her boyfriend, and now she’s on a dangerous path unknown to the rest of the world.
I…am not quite sure what I just read. Patrick Ness is an auto-buy author for me. I bought Release after having my mind blown from More Than This and crying over A Monster Calls, both 5-star books. As for Release… Honestly? I am still trying to figure out what I read and how much I liked it.
I was immediately drawn in by the terrible situation Adam is put in—a gay kid with super-Christian parents. I know the feeling. And reading it sure as hell hit home. The novel is told in third-person. Each chapter is half Adam’s story, half Katie’s (shown in italics). Adam’s story was interesting, mostly sad, kind of uncomfortable, and super relatable. Katie’s story…??? I don’t even know. I was confused. At first I thought Katie was just “in between” and being all ghosty, searching for revenge, but then it turned out to be a lot more than that. I didn’t really quite understand the point of it all. Maybe just, like, higher beings and a creation story other than God and creationism? I don’t know. I really don’t. I’m not going to pretend I really understood it all, and to be honest, it was my least favorite part of the novel. I could have just read the parts about Adam and been satisfied.
I liked Adam as a character. He was a little woe-is-me, but to be fair, he kiiiiind of had reason to be. His parents clearly don’t care about him, and he has to hide a huge part of himself from them. Geez…I cannot imagine having a pastor for a parent. My mom was pretty close, but she’s more of a crazy culty Christian parent. The novel spans the course of one day, like Virginia Wolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, which I read in college and adored. It actually starts with “Adam would have to get the flowers himself.” A lot happens in this one day, but Adam takes it all in stride. A lot better than I would have. Luckily he has friends to help him along the way, especially his best friend Angela. I love Angela. Why do characters in books always get the coolest friends?? I related to her a lot, too, especially when she’s talking about sexuality:
“My point: why do you have to call yourself anything? Because, if you don’t, freedom. Because, self-actualization. Because, fluidity and not calcifying into what that label will make you.”
I am dating a woman. I am not really interested in any other woman, and before her I have only dated men, so I pretty much describe myself as a straight person who fell in love with a woman. And people are always like, no, sorry, you’re gay, I don’t understand you, blah blah blah. And I’m always saying, why do I have to identify as anything? Why can’t I just be a person dating a person? So, I related to Angela a lot. Maybe I should just start telling people I’m “fluid.”
The writing, as always with Ness’s books, was superb. He can take any story, about anything, and make it amazing. If this story were written by anyone else, I probably would not have enjoyed it much. Like I said, I enjoyed Adam’s story, but the side story just didn’t do it for me. But Ness finds a way to make even an unwanted storyline interesting. And that’s why, even though it is certainly my least favorite Ness novel to date, it is not a bad novel. It’s a quick read with a lot of interesting points about sexuality, religion, friendship, and love. And that’s what really matters. Just…try to get past the weird ghost thing. I don’t know what it’s there for, entirely, but it’s there, so, good luck.
“You have no idea what goes on inside another person’s head.”
“Why did everyone no longer a teenager automatically dismiss any feeling you had then? 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.”
“Maybe love made you stupid. Maybe loneliness did.”
“Never pass up the chance to be kissing someone. It’s the worst kind of regret.”
“They’re your parents. They’re meant to love you because. Never in spite.”