Release, by Patrick Ness
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: May 4, 2017 (UK); September 19, 2017 (US)
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.
Release is the kind of YA novel that I adore, with richly nuanced characters, realistic situations and dialogue, and a protagonist who feels both complex and completely relatable no matter how old you are.
This day-in-the-life story revolves around Adam Thorn, the black sheep of his conservative, religious family. The youngest son of a preacher, Adam is struggling with the expectations of his parents and the still tender wounds left over from his first break-up along with the unwanted sexual advances of his much-older boss. His best friend and sounding board Angela, is moving overseas and he’s still not sure how he feels about Linus, the charming, intuitive boy he’s been seeing on the sly.
This slice of Adam’s life doesn’t hesitate to take a turn into some dark places. Adam has a lot on his plate and as he moves through his sometimes terrible sometimes wonderful day, he ends up finding support from the two people who are closest to him, but also from a completely unexpected ally.
Adam’s struggles to communicate honestly with his parents feels realistic. In particular, his relationship with his father is fraught with things unsaid and expectations unmet – on both sides. Adam’s dad sees so much potential in him but only wants to mold him into the person he wants Adam to be. Their heartbreaking confrontation near the end of the book leaves both of them reeling.
“Do you even love me?” Adam asked.
“More than my own life,” his dad said, immediately.
“But you don’t want to have to do anything with that love. You don’t want to have to work.”
“You have no idea how much I work to love you.”
There is another sort-of connected storyline in this book that didn’t entirely work for me. It somehow involves the tragic murder of a meth addict, a queen and a faun. I have no idea what it has to do with the overall theme of the story, and I felt quite obtuse not being able to figure it out, but the entire book would have been better off without it.
Despite that, I would definitely recommend Release to YA lovers. It’s emotional and intelligent, without feeling inauthentic to the teenage experience. I thought Adam was lovely, strong and capable and I was pleased to tag along with him through his day.
Patrick Ness, an award-winning novelist, has written for England’s Radio 4 and Sunday Telegraph and is a literary critic for The Guardian. He has written many books, including the Chaos Walking Trilogy, The Crash of Hennington, Topics About Which I Know Nothing, and A Monster Calls.
He has won numerous awards, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, the Booktrust Teenage Prize, and the Costa Children’s Book Award. Born in Virginia, he currently lives in London.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.