I enjoyed reading A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness awhile ago (the movie was quite good as well) so I was eager to pick up another book by this same author entitled Release, which I believe is his latest work.
The entire novel takes place during the span of one day and focuses on: 1) The life of a young man, Adam Thorn, who following a series of events and situations, feels undeserving of love and 2) A murdered girl who returns from the dead to obtain vengeance for her death — oh, and she’s sharing a body with otherworldly queen.
The blurb is as follows:
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.
An Unusual Format
This is an unusual book in that it follows two separate stores, with each chapter alternating between the two. One is a modern realistic storyline depicting an interesting day in the life of a gay teen. The other is a paranormal story, featuring a resurrected murdered girl who is sharing a body with a Queen of another realm.
The first story follows a day in the life of Adam Thorn, a young gay teen living in an extremely religious household (his father is a pastor). This isn’t one of those stories when a gay teen is deeply in the closet or shunned by his parents, thrown out, or otherwise abused. The author does manage to illustrate, however, the manner in which certain religious beliefs can damage relationships and tear a family apart.
But Adam is comfortable with his sexuality, even though it isn’t a subject he ever discusses with his parents, even though he’s fairly certain they are well aware that he’s gay.
Because of his parent’s beliefs and their unwillingness to acknowledge Adam’s sexuality, however, he feels rejected and unloved by them but forges ahead despite their distance. This is depicted perfectly by his father’s off-handed comment to Adam:
“You have no idea how hard I work to love you.”
Adam is also, suffering from a broken heart. Though he is currently dating a boy who adores him (Linus), Adam is unable to completely commit to him because he is still pining horribly for his ex, Enzo, who didn’t treat Adam all that well while they were dating and subsequently dumped him. A going-away party is planned for Enzo later that evening, which Adam will be attending with Linus.
Earlier that day, Adam’s brother Marty (who is training to become an evangelical preacher like their father) drops a bombshell on Adam, which kind of shakes Adam’s foundations to the core (as well as results in a full-blown family crisis). While trying to be understanding and supportive of his brother’s predicament, Marty makes a hurtful comment regarding Adam’s sexuality, which kind of sets the tone for the rest of the day.
The day continues to challenge Adam when at work, his boss makes unwelcome sexual advances toward him and gives him a creepy ultimatum if he wants to keep his job. Then to top it all off, Adam learns that Angela — his dearest and best friend, confidant an emotional crutch – has another bombshell to drop on poor Adam.
There is a lot more going on with Adam but suffice it to say that by the end of the day, he’s able to overcome everything that the fates have thrown at him and, perhaps for the first time in his life, he is clear on who he is and what is really important to him. He understands that in this life, we have the option of choosing our family and by the end of the story, Adam is ready to reshape his life and move forward with his head held high.
Additionally, though things started out rocky with him and his brother, I was happy to see their relationship strengthen by the end of the book, as they formed an alliance in preparation for the new challenges they’ll both have to face.
The Paranormal Story
The second storyline follows the tale of a murdered girl who was a drug addict and killed by her boyfriend. She emerges from a lake and is followed by a Faun, who is invisible to her and who continually refers to her as “My Queen”. The body appears to be inhabited by two spirits: the spirit of the murdered girl and the spirit of a Queen of another realm (from what I can gather, although it wasn’t quite clear to me where she was from).
The girl has one plan for the day: to get revenge on the person who killed her. The Faun’s goal is to make the Queen remember who she is, for if the Faun is unsuccessful, the entire world will be destroyed — so we have the element of the “ticking time bomb” thrown in for extra suspense.
This tale, though it seemed separate from Adam’s story, does merge together with Adam’s life at the end, in a surprising and satisfying way.
I admit that it took me awhile to adjust to the strange format of the book with the seemingly unrelated alternating storylines but it ended up working for me as it all came together in the final pages.
This was a wonderful book and I loved how the author portrayed Adam and his friends talking openly and positively about sex and being gay, all behind a very powerful message: We deserve to be loved.
The book deals with several real-world issues: sexual harassment, shame, religious extremism, love, family bonds and being true to oneself. There is certainly pain and heartache in parts of the story and it is an intense read. But there is a lightness to it as well, and the overarching theme is a positive one. Because of this, I found Release to be a beautiful, heartfelt novel that was life-affirming and a delight to read.
The characters are realistic, vivid and well-developed, and you can help falling in love with them by the end of the book (well, maybe except for Enzo). Recommended!
You can check out Release HERE