By Patrick Ness
Genre: Contemporary/Magical Realism/LGBTQ
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Adam Thorn has a busy day-picking up flowers for his mom, going to work, helping his dad at the church, and saying goodbye to the boy he loves? Loved? As we accompany Adam for the day, we also follow Katherine who was recently murdered by her meth head boyfriend. Both teens are seeking a release; will they find it?
In true Ness fashion, we have a contemporary story sprinkled with paranormal. Similar to The Rest of Us Just Live Here, there’s a main story featuring Adam and a secondary story featuring Katherine-a ghost. Although the two stories are different, they are occurring at the same time and share the same themes-blame; alternative families; redemption; and letting go.
Adam Thorn is a seventeen-year old high school senior and the son of a preacher. He’s constantly in the shadow of his very attractive and very holy older brother, Marty, and he’s in love with a boy who doesn’t love him back-Enzo. Although he has a new boyfriend that he thinks he loves, he can’t get past the old flame. Why doesn’t Enzo love him? Is he unlovable? Maybe he’s too young to know what love is and it was just “messing around.” Maybe Marty was correct and his sexuality makes him incapable of true love. Adam is dealing with all of this in addition to his parents who are in denial of their gay son and constantly reminds him that their love is conditional. Since Adam cannot truly be himself with his family, he considers his best friend Angela to be his family and often seeks comfort from her.
Meanwhile, Katherine van Leuwen has not passed over into the after world and latches herself onto the Queen of the after world to find answers. As she rises from the lake where she was drowned, she finds her old home, her best friend, and the boy who killed her. Accompanying Katherine is a faun who wipes people’s memory and saves others from the Queen/Katherine’s deadly rage. Much like Adam, Katherine spends the beginning of her day blaming herself then taking the power back from her killer and finally allowing herself to release her anger so she can pass over.
Adam and Katherine’s stories are told in the same chapters so they are experiencing the same things. I won’t expound because that’s part of the enjoyment of the book. By the end of the story, both characters grow and are able move on.
Release contains several metaphors including the faun and the rose and once again, I’ll let you discover their meanings on your own. Most readers will focus on Adam’s story which is unique and uplifting but please don’t ignore the B story because it’s written just as beautifully as Adam’s.
Bang Bang Rating: 1/2