*This review will contain spoilers!*
‘Adam would have to get the flowers himself.’
I haven’t read Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs Dalloway’ yet, but I definitely recognised the play on that iconic first sentence. Apparently ‘Release’ is a homage to both Woolf and Jude Blume’s ‘Forever’, neither of which I’d read… I might have understood it more if I’d read either of those first!
‘Someone was going away. Adam wasn’t sure whether he wanted them to go away or not.’
– A brief recap of ‘Release’, from Patrick himself.
Adam Thorn’s ex-boyfriend, Enzo, is leaving town, and his farewell party is tonight. Adam doesn’t know how he feels about his deprature. Enzo and him split up quite a while ago, and Adam’s dating Linus Bertulis now. While buying flowers for his mother, Adam purchases a rose – he just doesn’t know who it’s for yet.
But that rose changes everything.
Adam pricks his finger on it, awakening the spirit of Katie, a girl who was murdered in their hometown. She takes over the body of an undisclosed queen, who needs to be returned by the faun before the end of the day or she will die. If the queen dies? Well, that means we all die. The world ends. Kaput.
(Are you following? Me neither.)
Things go from bad to worse for Adam, and soon enough he’s having the worst day of his life. He finds out his brother is going to be a father and his best friend is leaving the country, gets propositioned by his boss and comes out to his father during an explosive argument.
“You’ve had a remarkably shit day and it’s only two o’clock.”
Meanwhile, Queen Katie is busy trying to solve the mystery of her death and who is to blame. She tracks down her old friend, but she doesn’t think she’s culpable. So she decides to go to the prison where her ex-boyfriend is being held for her murder. Rather than letting the justice system prevail, she wants a bloody revenge of her own.
With the clock ticking and sunset rapidly approaching, can the faun get his queen back?
And will Adam ever decide who to give that bloody rose to?
‘Release’ is conflicting.
On the one hand, I absolutely adored Adam’s story. Enzo was his first love, and he finds it difficult to accept that their relationship is over for good. He wants to love Linus ‘so much it almost physically hurt’, but Enzo is always in the back of his mind. Juggling the painful emotions surrounding his romantic situation with his difficulty living in an uber-religious family, Adam’s life isn’t a piece of cake.
On the other hand, I was SO confused by the magical realism. There’s no real explanation of who the queen is or how Adam had an effect upon them. At times it almost reminded me of ‘The Rest of Us Just Live Here‘, but where that ran smoothly, the transitions in ‘Release’ were jarring. Every time the viewpoint shifted back to Katie I inwardly groaned: I sped through her sections desperate to return to Adam.
It felt too intelligent for me. I hate feeling like an idiot, but I definitely feel as though this went completely over my head. I’ve spoken to a few people about the book since I read it, and all of them have agreed with me. It reads more like adult fiction than young adult, because the literary language is exhausting.
That being said, I hope young adults read this anyway. I think this book is going to do great things for LGBT+ teenagers who are struggling to come out and accept who they are. Adam has been keeping his sexuality concealed for years, but when he comes out to his father he finds self-acceptance easier. There’s also an extremely steamy sex scene between Adam and Linus. I’ve read a LOT of YA fiction, and I’ve never read a book that didn’t fade to black as soon as there was a love scene between two male characters. It’s about time that different kinds of sexual relationships were being focused upon in YA, because it means more teen experiences are being represented.
‘Release’ is absorbing. I just wish that Patrick Ness had decided to tell Adam’s story alone, rather than combining it with Katie and the mystical elements. They both could have been novels by themselves: the ideas are strong and the characters are even stronger! I would have found it easier to care for Katie if I’d known her a bit better.
It’s a shame that a story I loved and a story I didn’t really like were so closely intertwined. I still adore Patrick Ness’ writing, though, and I can’t wait to read more of his work.