I was really looking forward to reading Release as I’d heard so much about it, and I love Patrick Ness’ writing. I found this review hard to write as whilst I couldn’t put it down and finished it in a few days, some parts of it didn’t exactly blow me away.
But let’s start with what I LOVED about it!
The story is set throughout one eventful day in the life of Adam Thorn, a gay teenager and son of a preacher. This book was beautiful. It touches on so many themes that are important to talk and read about. Adam is navigating how to accept his sexual identity in a family that doesn’t accept it. This story also focuses on themes of male sexual assault which was hard to read about, but important as I’ve never read a book which touches upon those themes.
Adam’s best friend Angela is a babe, and their friendship is the glue that seems to hold Adam’s life together. In contrast to his family, they are very open and honest about everything. In particular, their discussion of labels was GREAT to read about as I feel it’s usually either ‘they’re good’ or ‘they’re bad’. Ness explores the complexity of humans and feelings of individuality by showing that not everything is black and white. Angela is very fluid in her sexuality and feels that labels place her into a very rigid box. On the other hand, for Adam identifying as gay and giving himself that label sets him free and allows him to fully express his sexuality and come to terms with it.
“They’d been kids together. They’d been young teens together. They were growing up into adults together. It had been long enough and consistent enough that they’d gone past all boundaries.”
I also loved reading about Adam’s relationships. Ness didn’t skip over the sex scenes, which so frequently happens when the story features LGBTQ+ characters. There were multiple scenes that were explicit, but fit into the narrative perfectly and they really were great to read.
All of this had me enthralled and I really enjoyed Adam as a narrator. Some scenes were raw with emotion which were hard to read, but, at the same time, very eye-opening and deeply honest.
And now, a few criticisms …
What I didn’t enjoy about the book was the subplot about the the queen and the fawn. Initially, when I heard that this book incorporated a ghost, I was really excited and intrigued to see how it would be done. For me, I think it fell a bit flat, and I didn’t really understand what was going on in those chapters. They didn’t seem to link in with Adam’s narrative, and I was struggling to find meaning in them. Those chapters were written in magical realism and whilst I can see the appeal of the contrast, it didn’t work for me. Whilst reading them, all I could think about was Adam’s narrative.
I would have enjoyed it more if the two stories intertwined somehow, or if the queen’s story just wasn’t there.
It’s weird to be in a position where I deeply loved one part of a book, and didn’t care about the other, and yet here we are. Honestly, I think I would still recommend this book for the power of Adam’s story alone.
Release by Patrick Ness | Book Review