Release - Patrick Ness

N.B. this review has no spoilers!

I have only read two Patrick Ness novels prior to this; A Monster Calls - one of the most beautiful and powerful books I have ever read - and The Rest of Us Just Live Here - a book that, whilst a little boring, had complex and interesting characters with complex and interesting lives. When I read the blurb of Release, I wasn't convinced it was going to be something I would like, but I found a rogue signed copy in an indie store and thought 'why not?'. After all, it has one of the most beautiful covers I have seen in a long time, so even if it's not for me it will look good on a bookshelf. That was one of the best decisions I have made this year (or ever, really). My favourite genre is 'coming of age', and my goodness is this one hell of a coming of age story. This book is powerful and it is important on so many different levels.

Release follows a day in Adam's life during the summer before his senior year of high school, a day in which everything goes to hell. He's the son of a very conservative evangelical minister who believes you can quite literally pray the gay away. Of course, Adam being gay is not a comfortable topic at home. What's more, he's still trying to deal with the heartbreak inflicted by his break up with his first proper boyfriend while trying to learn to love his new one, Linus, as much as Linus loves him.

The fact that this book takes place over just one day is one of it's biggest strengths. By following Adam so closely you connect with him instantly and feel all of his raw emotion so much more intensely. I felt so personally connected to this story thanks to that.

True to form, Ness has created an excellent set of complex, vividly real and diverse characters. Adam is relatable and heartbreaking and honestly one of the sweetest fictional characters I have met in a long time. He just wants to love again, to feel like he is worthy of the love Linus and his friends give him. Linus and Adam's chapter is honestly my favourite chapter simply because it was written so honestly and openly. The sex isn't treated as taboo or something you need to place some sort of veil over to hide; it is a part of the narrative that means just as much as the words spoken.

Something equally as special as Linus and Adam's relationship is Adam's friendship with Angela. Angela is the friend everyone wishes they had; she's there for Adam no matter what happens to him. She, her home and her family are his safety net and the embodiment of a chosen family. The first person Adam turns to when anything happens is Angela and she is always open and honest and accepting of Adam, even when he does not extend the courtesy to himself.

The reason this book is so important is that it is representative - at least in part - of what so many LGBT+ kids and other kids made to feel 'less than' experience. Adam feels lonely and trapped and his chosen family is all that he has to fall back on. One of the most striking moments in the novel is when Angela asks Adam if it's safe for him to go home and he says 'I don't know'. I am absolutely certain moments like that will resonate with so many people. But Ness doesn't leave you with the unease; even though there are still so many question marks over so many things, you finish the book feeling hopeful for Adam and his future.

I cried three or four times reading this book, and two of them were for good reasons (for context, very few books have ever made me actually shed real tears). It really kicks in you in the gut. Whilst I still don't understand the sections about the Queen and her faun, I didn't not like them either. I could have read the book without them, but I didn't feel they took away from the story.

I strongly believe that more people should read this book. It unapologetically tells the story of so many kids who feel that they're worth less than everyone else while also dealing with issues surrounding friendship, heartbreak and religion. It shows how, even though they appear to lead ordinary lives by juggling school, jobs, friendships, romance and sex, below the surface things can be falling apart thanks to the belief that they are 'less than'. Read. This. Book.

Loving you always,

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