Review: Release by Patrick Ness

Published in 2017 by Walker Books / 288 pages

Opening sentence, “Adam would have to get the flowers himself.”

At the Greenwich Book Festival I had the pleasure of hearing Patrick Ness in conversation with authors Angie Thomas and Katherine Woodfine. He spoke about how his new book, Release was inspired by Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (the above opening sentence being a direct homage to Mrs Dalloway’s – ‘Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself’ ) and Judy Blume’s Forever. He said he ‘wanted to write a Forever for the 17-year-old me.’ Hearing this personal back story about the inspiration for Release more than sold it to me, so I bumped it up my TBR list.

I opened it one sunny morning in the garden and could not put it down (except, you know, when the baby needed attention, but every nap time I spent reading this.) It was a one day read, which is testament to its addictive brilliance.

Adam Thorn is 17, gay and the son of a preacher. His religious parents do not approve of his sexuality and Adam is struggling with fully realising who he is – due to being gay in a small town with disapproving parents and being 17 in a small town, trying to make the tricky transition to adulthood. Adam fell hard for his first love, Enzo, who then relegated their relationship to friend status, leaving Adam heartbroken and confused. Meeting Linus, the status flipped for Adam, ‘It was so much easier to be loved than to do any of the desperate work of loving.’ But Linus is a great guy – Adam wants to love him, but can he let himself? Adam is such a well executed character, you care for him and feel his pain as he navigates this complex time in his life.

Meanwhile, the Patrick Ness signature of nothing being quite as it seems is here in the dual story line that follows the ghost of Katherine van Leuwen, a local girl who was recently murdered and is trying to confront her murderer. It sounds super-sinister but is written in such a whimsical, delicate way that your heart aches for Katherine and her terrible end.

You might look at those two plot summaries and be at a loss as to how they work together in one book, but let me assure you that they do – Patrick Ness has an amazing ability to make the supernatural seem naturally part of the world around us, which he does so effortlessly here. Everything comes together to create a spellbinding read with an emotional, beautiful climax quite unlike anything I’ve read before and I am once again in awe of Patrick and his words.

Rating: 5/5



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