If you like slice of life stories with a bit of a twist, then you gotta read Patrick Ness’s Release.
People will tell you that not much happens in this book (untrue). I almost want to say that too much happens– because a lot happens within less than 24 hours– but that’s the point of the story: it’s about the extraordinary in the ordinary. Our protagonist, Adam, begins thinking that today is going to be just another day. Instead, Adam is torn apart, bit by bit, as every piece of his life is unraveled until he finally reaches– you guessed it– release.
It’s kind of great.
What makes this greater is that there are actually two narrative storylines going on in this text. Ness played with the idea of the phenomenal story being told in the background in The Rest of Us Just Live here, and he plays with it again in Release. While Adam is living a “normal” day (it’s not normal) something extraordinary is happening in his sleepy little town, but he’s entirely unaware. It makes Adam’s story seem a lot more special in some way, and when the stories eventually link up (because you know they do), it makes everything feel…. magical. Fulfilling. Like this was how it was always meant to be.
This book is a character study. Through it, we learn all about Adam Thorn, and we don’t learn much else. I love that. I love the focus on the singular, and I love how it’s not told through a very personal, diary-esque first person narrative. Instead, we read the story of Adam, or at least, as much of it that can happen within a day.
The best chapter is the first chapter, but it’s also the worst chapter. I say this because I am a fan of Mrs. Dalloway, and the first chapter is very Virgina Woolf. It’s superb, and anyone who has read Mrs. Dalloway is clued into it right away (parallel opening lines, anyone?). However, it is also the worst chapter because I feel like the text hasn’t found its voice yet. If you’re reading the first bit, and not getting into it, I strongly suggest you keep reading. It gets easier, and better, once both Ness and Adam find their narrative voice, and the text stops being a homage and becomes something unique and special.
Because all Ness novels are unique and special.
Now, I guarantee someone, somewhere, is going to try to ban this book. There are sex scenes and they are somewhat explicit. It’s something that probably would have made me uncomfortable as a young teen, but it’s something that by sixteen or seventeen, I would have loved to read, just to have it represented. Especially gay youth. SUPER important representation for them.
Overall, I thought this book had the trademark Ness quirky-ness but in a much more sophisticated voice than a lot of his other works. I definitely recommend it to fans of the every day and to people who don’t have it quite figured out just yet, but are working hard towards that moment of release.
3 stars out of 5.