Book Title: Release
Author: Patrick Ness
Date Started: May 12th 2017
Date Completed: May 14th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery, Fantasy
Quality Rating: Four Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Five Star
Quality Rating: Four Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Five Star
Final Rating: Five stars
I've been a big fan of Patrick Ness since picking up The Knife of Never Letting Go (to which I finished in about a day, promptly went straight on to the kindle store and bought The Ask and the Answer so there was less than a minute between me reading the books), and with each novel of his I've fallen more in love with him as a storyteller. Release was no different, and perhaps a unique experience as I got to meet and listen to Patrick on the day I finished it.
The reason Patrick is so successful, I think, is from his understanding of teenagers and his ability to reciprocate their emotions and behaviour. In less pretentious language: there's no talking down in his books, no skipping the hard stuff. Just honest and emotional things happening and being experienced by real people. In The Rest of Us Just Live Here, I was stunned at how he could deal with mental health in such a gentle but blunt way: there was no romanticising the harsh realities, but there was a sense of hope and more to life than just that as well. And now, in Release, Patrick does it all over again. This time, we're looking more at relationships (romantic, platonic, familial, you name it) with the same softness and honesty that shows how even when everybody thinks they're coming from the right place, the result can ultimately be wrong and hurtful. And it's not an entirely happy ending, but there is a revelation and acceptance that that's okay as well.
Getting to see Patrick on his tour for Release really brought my attention to the importance of the diversity and representation shown in this book. We need all the LGBT+ fiction we can get, but we also need more of it that looks at sexuality past the coming-out story. Release is about Adam's life captured in a day and a big part of that is driven by his sexuality, but his life exists and reaches out further as well. Something that probably struck me the most about Patrick's event was that he writes because he couldn't see himself in the books he read, and I think he's given another generation that representation that they need.
Setting the book over one day perfectly captured everything in Adam's life without it being forced. It's not the longest of books; it takes exactly the time it needs to let the story play out. It's just one of those bad days that we all have, but in it we get to see pretty much everything that's weighing on Adam's mind. While the story isn't there to resolve these things, by the end there's closure in the way of knowing that bad days are just that - bad days. It doesn't mean everything's right and fair, but it doesn't mean everything's wrong and hopeless either.
I adore the fantastical elements Patrick has started adding in his books. I thought the comedic snapshots of the typical YA plot lines in The Rest of Us Just Live Here was a stroke of genius, and I loved the supernatural sub-plot going on while Adam went about his day. Patrick writes them almost as separate stories, and this means that the main plot can be its own thing and well developed by itself, but is then elevated at the conclusion where all the little ties are drawn together between the two stories to exaggerate their meaning and resolution.
Patrick doesn't write heroes or villains, he writes people that grapple with good and bad, and right and wrong. I'm happy to say that three-dimensional characters are much more common than they used to be, but few writers I've read have managed to capture that humans can do wrong and bad things without realising or meaning to do wrong or bad things. Which brings in the question, how much can they really be blamed? To which Patrick answers with diplomacy and firmness: your beliefs and intentions are each individual's freedom of choice, but your actions towards others are what you will be help accountable for.
There are always lovely relationships in Patrick's books, especially between friends, but creating Angela topped them all. She's simultaneously the funniest, most kindhearted and blunt 'best friend' character I've come across, and all with such chemistry to Adam that you feel every heartfelt intention. She really cares about him, and seeing that fierce sort of friendship (between a girl and boy as well - shock horror since it's not just trying to be quirky) made me smile time and time again while reading.
Okay, Adam should really get top billing over Angela, but he'd happily step aside to let her be in the limelight for a bit. Because now, I can tell you how great Adam is as a protagonist. He's not necessarily what I'd call a quiet character, but he's someone that throughout the whole of Release is just trying to hold on while everything looks like it's falling to pieces around him. Adam was the best protagonist you could've had for a story like this because he was powerless to all the changes, but he reacted in human ways every time. For me, Release is a lot about understanding that unfortunate things happen - sometimes all at once - but at the end of the day things start again, you just have to keep going. Adam pushes through everything, not always gracefully and never happily, but he keeps going. In role model mode he fits the bill, for representation he ticks the boxes, but past all that his character feels as real and human as if he were standing right next to you as you read.
Release didn't mean as much to me personally as The Rest of Us Just Live Here, but it was of course worth all the time in the world to read, and I'm sure will mean a great deal to many people out there. Meeting Patrick was an honour and only made me appreciate his work and personality more. I wait in anticipation for the next one.