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.
“When I realized how things were, when I said to myself that I am not this thing that I’ve been told I have to be, that I am this other thing instead…the label didn’t feel like a prison, it felt like a whole new freaking map, and now I can take any journey I want to take and it’s possible I might even find a home there. It’s not a reduction. It’s a key.”
Okay, so, people have mixed feelings about this book. It reminds me of The Rest of Us Just Live Here in the sense that it’s somehow both contemporary, and fantasy.
The contemporary every-day aspect of Release is the biggest part of the book, but it’s interrupted by short chapters of a truly bizarre tale about a dead drug addict looking for her killer and… a faun? I don’t know, it’s weird, and I admit I didn’t pay enough attention to it in the beginning so it went over my head a little. I’m sure if I read it more carefully I’d get it, but alas. There’s some Deep and Metaphorical Meaning here, but honestly, I just care about Adam’s storyline.
Even though I didn’t quite “get it”, I still loved the book because of Adam’s chapters. The novel happens over the course of one particularly shitty day in Adam Thorn’s life. He’s a 17 year old gay teenager in a super religious family where his father is a preacher and his older brother, the perfect son following in their father’s footsteps. That is a major issue for Adam, and during the day he also faces horrors at work, his best friend is moving away, his brother comes with a shocking revelation, and he’s still mourning his asshole ex while hooking up with this new guy Linus who might actually love him. I had a lot of emotions about Adam and Linus (and Enzo).
Patrick Ness writes people and relationships as beautifully as ever. Bonus points for there being actual (sweet and loving) gay sex in a young adult book. It wasn’t explicit, but it was in no way glossed over and didn’t fade to black like every other YA book I’ve read.
This is the perfect coming-of-age/self-discovery book to me, it’s short but packs a lot of emotional punch and is extremely moving. It’s openness and shameless honesty was my favorite part, and it managed to cover a lot of themes (friendship, family, love, sex, religion, sexuality, heartbreak, etc) in a short amount of time without it feeling rushed or crammed in. The queen/faun side-plot didn’t win me over, because what the actual??? I’m sure I could read it again and analyze it and get it, but as of now I’d say it’s quite skippable.
But I loved this, I did. My favorite Ness book is still More Than This though. I’m blown away whenever I think about it. Release might be my second favorite of his.
I leave you with this quote:
“They’re your parents. They’re meant to love you because. Never in spite.”