Saturday, 12 August 2017

Book Review // Release by Patrick Ness

What a uniquely wonderful book. That was my final thought when I finished Release. It was unique in the way that Patrick Ness is able to make every book of his utterly different from the last. And it was wonderful in that I fell for it after expecting not to like it at all.

Like with Ness’ other books, Release shares with them a common theme of growing up, as well as an exploration of the darker parts of the world we live in. And while it totally delivered on the deep and the sad and the hopeful, it also delivered in the aspects that I was doubtful I’d enjoy.

There are many elements that make up this story. It’s a contemporary, has a fair amount of focus on romantic and sexual relationships, is inspired by Mrs. Dalloway, and contains magical elements that I didn’t fully understand. And though none of those things are necessarily bad, they all add up to an equation of a book destined to go wrong for me. But somehow I still fell in love with those things and more.

What Release does excellently is acknowledging the depth of teenage emotions. It notes on things like how as a teen we don’t always know why we feel the way we do, but never does it belittle or devalue the strength of those feelings. It’s for a similar reason that although I’m not sure I totally understood the magical secondary storyline, I was still found meaning within it. And that’s really what’s at the core of this book: emotions and experiences are always meaningful even when they are hard to define.
“Adam wished he knew. Everything was always so clear in books and movies. Everyone always knew their reasons. But real life was such a mess.”
Release also has a big focus on the varying types of relationships, showing that all of them are valuable. What is unique about Release is that it doesn’t hold back in its depiction of romance and sex, but it cuts out the flowery and normalizes it to the point where it felt so genuine. It’s messy and it isn’t like in the movies, but that doesn’t make it any less real, and I loved that. I also adored Adam and Angela’s discussion about their sexual identities and the necessity of labels (Adam finds freedom in using them; Angela finds freedom in not). I found that entire passage so powerful and I’ve wanted to see this topic discussed in fiction for far too long.

The value of friendship and chosen families is also just as core to this book as the romantic/sexual. Adam’s friendship with Angela was so strong and beautiful, and I loved that the book as a whole promotes the message that everyone deserves to be loved, whether it be romantic, platonic, or familial.

Something that I thought was so important in this book that Adam is an incredibly flawed character. He doesn’t always take the high path and sometimes treats people badly, as well as have bad things happen to him. But those bad things don’t cancel each other out, nor do they impact the fact that he’s seventeen and human and makes mistakes. He is still growing, and is still a good person despite it all.

Ultimately, Release is about hope. That even when everything seems to be falling apart, there is still love to be found. And that even though the future is utterly unknowable, the world doesn’t have to end.

An ebook copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review. 


YA Contemporary with Fantasy elements


gay protagonist and character who is Korean and sexually fluid

homophobia, graphic strangulation, graphic drowning, murder, drug addiction, sexual harassment, blackmail


  1. Love this review so much! GG, you made it sound like THE one for me. :) I hope to read this one soon. Thanks for sharing, this was a beautiful review!

    Cass @ Words on Paper

    1. Thank you Cass! Gosh, I hope I didn't oversell it! I think Release is a very hit or miss book and I went in with low ish expectations, but I'd absolutely recommend it for its unexpected beauty.