Published: May 4th, 2017
Synopsis: 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.
Diversity: Adam and Linus are openly gay. Angela is sexually fluid and a person of colour.
Warnings: homophobia, sexual harassment, abuse, drug use mentioned, murder mentioned.
Release is an interesting take on the worst day ever, following the Adam Thorne through love and horror, confrontation and confession.
On this day, Adam must deal with the collision of so many blows on one day. The loss of an ex-love, the future loss of his best friend, a horrific encounter with his boss and the continuing fraying relationship between him and his family. Adam has to cope with his own feelings towards his family, his ex-love and his current bae, and himself.
This is the second Patrick Ness book I’ve read and, just like with A Monster Calls, Ness invests me in this world. He invests me in these characters and their tribulations. I want things to work out for Adam, I want him to be happy and every step of his day that is depicted makes my chest ache for me.
The story doesn’t just follow Adam though. It also follows the ghost of a local girl who had been murdered by her boyfriend. This supernatural twist could have felt out of place in what is, for the most part, a contemporary story but Ness doesn’t make it seem that way. There are continuing themes that flow through both stories, worlds overlap in places but only just, so that the importance of either story isn’t compromised.
The most potent part of Release was the idea of abuse and repeating patterns and endings you can only make for yourself. Adam has Erzo who over the course of the story turns from this wonderful romantic figure to someone who used and hurt Adam more than he even realised at the time, and who still had such a hold on Adam that he didn’t think he’d ever be able to move on.
Katherine has Tony, her murderer, who loved drugs more than her and who she desperately wants answers from – part of her story also includes a boyfriend before that she was brave enough to walk away from.
Both Adam and Katherine have to overcome the demons of these bad relationships and how their lives have been affected by them in order to move on – Adam into the future with Linus at his side, and Katherine into the otherworld, finally at peace.
These two stories playing off against each other, so different and yet so similar, make for a unique and powerful read.
During the book launch in London, Patrick Ness cited how Forever by Judy Blume had inspired him in one way or another in this book, and I feel it’s important to draw attention to the parallels. Forever was a careful and wonderful introduction to sex and sexuality in books, and Ness wanted the same for gay boys who read his books – something genuine and intimate and beautiful, and I honestly believe he succeeded.
Talk of sex and first times are expressed openly in the book and the closeness that two people can have – even as teenagers, even if their ‘too young to know what they want’, eve if their love ‘isn’t real’ – is so wonderfully depicted. And more so, it’s funny and cute and exactly what anyone who is trying to understand their sexuality would want to read.
Release deals with some harsh topics that can be quite hard to read at times, but each blow brings Adam and Katherine out stronger. It expresses love and sex honestly and beautifully and ends with these characters finding the strength their need to keep on moving.