Rummanah Aasi

Description: Adam Thorn doesn’t know it yet, but today will change his life. Between his religious family, a deeply unpleasant ultimatum from his boss, and his own unrequited love for his sort-of ex, Enzo, it seems as though Adam’s life is falling apart. At least he has two people to keep him sane: his new boyfriend (he does love Linus, doesn’t he?) and his best friend, Angela. But all day long, old memories and new heartaches come crashing together, throwing Adam’s life into chaos. The bindings of his world are coming untied one by one; yet in spite of everything he has to let go, he may also find freedom in the release.

Review: Release is a heartbreaking story that features a dual narrative that follows Adam, a gay teenager with homophobic parents, and the ghost of a classmate murdered by her meth-addicted boyfriend, over the course of one, defining day. I was immediately grabbed by Adam's story line. Normally, I do not care for books that take place in a day, but there were so many important things happening to Adam or that involved Adam that I often forgot this was all occurring at one time.
  Adam does not lead an easy life. His evangelical father constantly berates him and calls him a disappoint for being gay and not following his shoes into clergy. His first love, Enzo who he may or may not be still in love with, is having a going-away party. His job is also threatened by his lecherous boss who has been sexually harassing him. All of these events are heaped upon Adam's shoulders but he takes them in stride because of his support network and best friend Angela has always been on his side. Except Angela completely sidelines him in announcing that she's moving from Washington State to the Netherlands for senior year. Angela's departure serves as a catalyst that fractures Adam's complacency. Suddenly, he has to navigate and release all of his feelings that he has internalized for so long. Adam's story dominates the narrative and provides a honest, vulnerable, and riveting portrayal of a gay teenager's sexual awakening and rite of passage. There are plenty of nods to Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway and Judy Blume's Forever throughout the book from the book's structure, writing style, and themes. I can definitely see why he chose those particular books to influence his book. Release feels cathartic just as it is aptly titled and uncalcuated.
 What dampened by enjoyment of the book is the paranormal story line, which is not as affecting as Adam's. This magical realism story line weaves in and out of Adam's narrative, which disrupted the book's flow and intensity. While it was nicely written and conveys the sense of mystery that we encounter in our daily lives and I can make parallels to Adam's story, it made me bored and I ended up skimming most of it. The book would have been just fine if this story line was edited out of the book.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language in the book, mentions of drug abuse, frank discussion on sex, sex scenes, and scenes of sexual harassment. Recommended for Grades 10 and up.

If you like this book try: They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
3 Responses
  1. I have had difficulty with most of Ness's books. There's always something weird that takes away from my enjoyment. This one sounds like it has that element also. Great review. Thanks.

  2. It sounded good up until you mentioned the magical realism. It just doesn’t fit this type of story. I think I will pass.

  3. You totally had me until the paranormal/magical realism bit. It sounds like such a good book that didn't need that added dimension.

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