Have you ever started something, moved away from it to refresh yourself, and then completely did something else in its entirety instead before returning to the original task at hand? Well, I started reading “Call Me By Your Name” by André Aciman, stopped halfway, and then read eight other novels, have written about one of them, started another article discussing two others together, and now here I am writing about another novel that is quite noticeably NOT “Call Me by Your Name”…I’ll get there eventually, maybe?
Here we have another book that I pulled from a list of LGBT Young Adult novels. Patrick Ness’s “Release” explores a very brief look into the life of Adam Thorn: literally one day.
Adam is a tall, blonde, gay junior starting the summer into his senior year of high school, with an evangelical priest for a father, a mother who is just as devout, and a brother as interesting as unbuttered toast. His family struggles to keep the church open while his family as a whole disapproves of the whole Adam being gay thing, but it’s not discussed until what I think might be the climax of the novel, if it could be called that.
Each chapter felt like just things were happening. It builds throughout the day, but the resolution is lukewarm at best.
Essentially, the novel deals with Adam’s feelings towards the guy he’s currently seeing, Linus, as well as letting go of the feelings he still holds for his “what are we, were we anything”, named Enzo, before he moves across the country (hence, ‘Release’). There is a side story that is randomly interjected following the spirit of Katherine van Leuwen who was murdered by her meth-addicted boyfriend.
The side story shows Katherine moving through the world followed by a fawn who views her as his Queen since she has taken the form of the Queen (Death maybe?) as she examines the aftermath of her murder; those affected, and how they react to seeing her spirit, furthered by her exacting revenge on her murderer, while also coming to terms with the fact that she’s dead and must release her attachment from this world.
As I finished reading the novel last night, I came out having very mixed feelings on it.
The main storyline is alright. It has a slight resolution wherein Adam accepts his place in Enzo’s life and decides to focus wholly on his relationship with Linus, releasing his attachment to Enzo so he can love Linus more considerately. I suspect this is the main concept of the novel, but I have some gripes.
The novel has these plot points that are opened and then not closed which makes them feel a little like fillers. For example, Adam is regularly assaulted and harassed by his manager Wade, who ultimately then threatens his job if Adam doesn’t sleep with him.
Adam refuses, gives soft reconsideration to the offer since he needs the job, then the novel loosely implies that Wade won’t get away with it in the last few pages. Yes, this plot point is used to for a second plot point where Adam and his father get into a spat about Adam being gay, since it’s not something they ever talk about, but this then leads to another plot point which doesn’t get resolved either.
In short, his best friend leaves, his ex-friends-with-benefits leaves, his parents are furious at him and hate his boyfriend, his brother got a girl pregnant (the most interesting thing about Marty, I kid you not, and he might lose his job or win a lawsuit. The only real resolution to the main storyline is Adam is over Enzo and is with Linus now.
Ultimately, I feel that there could have been more written to flush out some of these things, because Patrick Ness can most definitely write. This novel is 277 pages, but his novel “More Than This” is nearly 500 pages.
As for the writing itself, Ness writes beautiful descriptions that are very poetic at times, while the character interactions are all enjoyable for the most part. Wade is especially uncomfortable to read, which I suspect was the point, and the dialogue between Angela and Adam is generally pretty fun, quippy and spells out their close friendship.
On a scale from 1-10, I’d say “Release” sits at a 5 to a 6 for me. The novel had storylines I was interested in, but only slightly paid off on one of them, making me feel tepid.