Title: Release
Author: Patrick Ness
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Young adult/teen fiction, Contemporary (slight paranormal fantasy too)
Book format: Paperback
Sweet Strawberries: Sweet StrawberrySweet StrawberrySweet Strawberry

Description:  It’s Saturday, it’s summer and, although he doesn’t know it yet, everything in Adam Thorn’s life is going to fall apart.  Relationships will change, he’ll change, but maybe, just maybe, he’ll find freedon in the release.
Time is running out though, because way across town a ghost has risen from the lake.  Searching, yearning, she leaves a trail of destruction in her wake…

*Free copy provided by publisher for review…

Review:  Oh dear. I’d never read a Patrick Ness novel before this one however the cover and the blurb really intrigued me and I had high hopes for an author who’s so well praised.  It’s a big shame though that this novel just isn’t what I expected it to be.

The description of the novel is a bit cryptic but the book basically focuses on Adam Thorn, a teenager living in a small town in America. In just one day so many things will happen that his life will change forever. The blurb doesn’t say though that Adam is gay, with evangelical Christian parents who disapprove, as well as a father who is a minister of their church and the story is mostly about him dealing with this fact, struggling with his parents, and with his own feelings. There is a secondary story in this book but I’ll explain more about it below.

The book starts with Adam heading off to get some flowers that his mother has told him to. I’d like to say that this book was easy to get into but it wasn’t. The descriptions at the start of this novel are a bit old-fashioned for my liking. I’m used to YA novels with fast and easy narration but this felt very distant at first and I was worried the rest of the book had this almost flowery/purple prose type of description. However I persevered through the beginning and the writing did get better to read, or I got used to Patrick Ness’s style.

The first chapter is a pretty mundane one describing Adam and his basic situation. Halfway through the first chapter there is a break and the second story is revealed and from then on there are two stories being told, Adam’s and that of a strange spirit. Adam’s story forms most of the pages of this book but the Sprit story jumps in every now and then. There is only a short mention at the start of the book on who the spirit is and the stories stay unconnected until the last pages. The Spirit story is an odd one as it doesn’t really fit in with Adam’s at all and even down to the last chapter, Adam’s story is resolved and in a way that was satisfying to read and although the sprit story is resolved too it feels like a separate paranormal tale that didn’t need to be a part of this book.

I didn’t warm to Adam’s character right away but as the story unfolds you learn more about his struggles both externally and internally. The story is very contemporary and though there is love and sex in the story it isn’t really a romantic one. The sex in the story is actually pretty graphic, reminding me of ‘Forever’ by Judy Bloom which the author says helped lend inspiration to this novel. There is also occasional swearing with a few uses of the s and f word.

The Spirit story is a strange one as I’ve said and feels like a whole different book. Not only is it a paranormal story but it’s also a bit fantasy with a Queen who’s a very old spirit and a faun who follows her around the town. Their story is about a girl who died, something which is mentioned at the start of the book, but the writing in this story is over descriptive and at times didn’t make much sense. The Spirit story is very short when compared to Adam’s story and feels like it was added to the book as a way to bulk up the size of it and I would have preferred this story to have been developed to be longer and more detailed itself, forming it’s own book than jumping into this one.

Adam’s story is interesting and I do like the ending of this novel, the way his story concludes, however the Spirit story really spoilt it for me and I would have preferred this to be made into two shorter stories rather than join a paranormal story with a contemporary one which just didn’t seem to work at all for me. I’m not sure if this book will appeal to everyone. It depends on the tolerance for detailed gay sex scenes and the over descriptive writing. While I enjoyed Adam’s story overall, the way he deals with things and the ending, this book just doesn’t have the re-read appeal for me.

While I’ve enjoyed quite a few YA books which deal with sexuality, sex and finding yourself, and I do like the fact this book tackles gay relationships openly, I think I would have preferred a longer tale about Adam, perhaps see what happens beyond where the story ended but this didn’t happen and it was quite a short read for me (I read it in one day but didn’t feel compelled to get back to it when taking a break). so a neutral 3 strawberries from me.

Have you read this book?  What do you think about books which show more diversity like gay relationships?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂