Recently, Zoya and I went to see Patrick Ness in conversation, on the press tour for his book ‘Release’. I have been a fan of Ness’ writing for a long time – I actually don’t remember how old I was when I read The Knife of Never Letting Go (probably about nine, knowing my family’s tendency to give me reading material above my age bracket).
Release bears almost no resemblance to Chaos Walking though, and as usual, Ness continues to surprise and impress. Not a lengthy, active piece of prose like Chaos Walking, the beauty of the book really lies in how Ness manages to portray incredible complexity and depth in his characters and their relationships while maintaining a fantastic simplicity in the plot. The book is like a time capsule – perfectly formed, yet incredibly revealing – and although I developed an attachment to and interest in the characters, I find myself not wanting a second book. Although most things were not resolved, this is a novel that feels self-contained.
I think one of the things that makes the story really compelling is that everybody knows an Adam – and maybe, in some ways, everybody is Adam. Although Adam has a very specific set of difficulties in his life that possibly make the book highly relatable to, for example, the LGBT+ community, the way that he struggles with his identity and how that fits into his world is, I think, universally understandable. One of the things that struck me during the talk was his understanding of how teenage minds work, and this really comes through in the narrative of this novel. Twelve more months and the Yoke is off,’ says Adam in chapter 1, and if you don’t feel that, you’ve never been a teenager.
When you read the book, Adam will remind you of someone in your life. Your Adam may not be gay. Your Adam may not be male. Your Adam may not have a religious family. But you will find that you have an Adam.
Release is a book that aches in all the right places. Later in the book, with lines like ‘It was so much easier to be loved than to do any of the desperate work of loving,’ Ness invokes a yearning need for fulfilment – for love, for acceptance, and for security – in a way that makes Adam’s pain and confusion almost visceral. ‘Please don’t leave me unloved,’ he says, and that too I think is a pervasive notion, especially for young people. Ness spoke about how his books are always about the world ending in one way or another, and said that for teenagers the world can feel like it’s ending every day. In the novel, Adam’s world implodes over and over again, but it never feels hysterical or melodramatic; it just feels very real.
Finally, I think one of the most important things about the novel is how it explores who and how we choose to love. This is something that I certainly never got to discuss in school (along with gay sex, and questions of faith), and I think it’s really important for young people to engage in the dialogue that this book opens up. ‘They’re supposed to love you because.’ Adam argues. ‘Never in spite.’
Release is a bold, moving, and powerful book that I would absolutely recommend to teenagers and adults alike – especially those who feel like they’re struggling on their own.
‘In some universes, we are all Beyoncé’
Release || Goodreads
Inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume's Forever, Release is one day in the life of Adam Thorn, 17. It's a big day. Things go wrong. It's intense, and all the while, weirdness approaches... Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It's a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won't come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.