Review: Release by Patrick Ness

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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.

To describe my thoughts about this book in one line is easy. I don’t know what half of this book is.

Before reading this book, I’d heard it was a contemporary with a weird fantasy story weaved in between. That sounds strange, right? Well, it is.

If you’ve read The Rest of Us Just Live Here, you’ll know that book kind of includes the same thing. It almost shows parallel universes – or snippets of something – kind of like the Upside Down from Stranger Things. But The Rest of Us Just Live Here just makes so much more sense.

Don’t get me wrong. I liked this book. I’d even go as far to say I loved it. But at the same time, I was left wondering what the hell is going on.

The story follows Adam Thorn, a gay son of a preacher who is working through a lot of emotions, loss and struggles all over the course of one day. I really liked Adam. I felt I related to him from the start, and I felt his story was a really important one.

I also love that this book was told over the course of a day. It suits the length of the book, and it felt almost like a dawn-to-sunset journey. It also adds to the impact of the amount that one life can change in just one day.

Overall, I loved what Ness did with Adam. He showed raw emotion and struggle which the reader really connects to. The settings work (and kind of intertwine with the weird fantasy parts), the characters are very powerful, and even the sex was tastefully done.

But I still have this snag. Because I don’t get the fantasy. I don’t even know how to explain it.

Basically, it’s briefly mentioned that this fantasy story is one about a meth addict murdered by her boyfriend at a lakeside. This lake (I believe) is the same one mentioned in Adam’s story, and the murdered girl was someone from a party or school or something? But I don’t quite get it. I don’t get how it fits. I felt like Ness tried some kind of higher-being writing that was meant to be deep and meaningful but just ended up leaving me in a confused daze. I even felt like skipping these parts just to get back to Adam, and for that reason I probably didn’t take it in as much as I could.

But – and this is where I have such mixed feelings – I just loved Adam. His story felt so important, like it was just begging to be told. And his character is one we really need in YA right now. And even though I felt like the start of the book was a little slow, the ending made up for it.

So this definitely isn’t my favourite of Ness’s. The Chaos Walking trilogy firmly holds that spot. But it was still an enjoyable read overall, and one I would recommend – just watch out for confusion.

★★★★

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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12 thoughts on “Review: Release by Patrick Ness

  1. That does sound confusing…a little self-indulgent writing style that I don’t tend to enjoy. I’m sorry that was included as I know people love his books. I am not a fan of contemporary so I haven’t read anything of his, but I know he has a pretty big fan base!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read this and reviewed it a few days ago and completely agree, what on earth with the Spirit story!? It felt like a story to fill the pages and was pretty short and weird. I didn’t get it either, but Adam’s story was good. I loved his confrontation with his father, powerful scene. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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