Before I start this review, I think it is only fair to point out that I am a massive fan of Patrick Ness (although I haven’t quite read all of his books yet. Yes, I know.). I was desperate to read Release, and I really wasn’t disappointed.
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 brilliant. I loved every second of reading it and I think it’s my favourite Patrick Ness book. I read it in one go, and after I closed the book I had to take a few minutes to just sit there and reflect. I said on twitter at the time that it felt like a quiet, intimate and personal book, and I stand by that, especially after hearing Ness talk about it earlier this week. Adam is a fantastic character. He practically leaps off the page, as do his best friend Angela and his boyfriend Linus. This triumvirate completely made the book for me. Yes, Adam’s home life is awful, he can’t be himself, and he can’t wait to get away, but that’s not his family. Angela is his family. Linus could be his family, if Adam lets him. And that’s what I loved most about Release. (Having said that, his blood family isn’t all bad – I ended up really liking his brother Marty, and I even had a smidge of sympathy for their dad. It’s not that Adam’s family don’t love him after all. It’s more that they love their religion more.)
There’s a superatural sub-plot that runs concurrently with Adam’s story, and I really enjoyed seeing the little ways it intersected, in much the same way as I enjoyed the chapter headings in Ness’s last book, The Rest of Us Just Live Here. I also enjoyed trying to figure out what was going on with faun and the queen, but I did slightly resent those chapters for not being more about Adam and his momentous day.
Overall, I thought the book was stunning. The writing is beautiful (as I’ve come to expect from Patrick Ness), all the characters feel like real people and not 2D caricatures (which would have been easy to do with, say, Adam’s dad), and the plot moves along easily. Most of all, the book is hopeful. There’s a definite feeling that it will get better, that Adam has the support of people who think he’s important, and that this moment right now isn’t all there is. And I think that’s a really important message to get to teens.