Wednesday, March 20, 2013

9 Heart Review: Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Elsewhere
Gabrielle Zevin

Page Count: 277

Release Date: 15 May 2007 (first edition)
Publisher: Square Fish (MacMillan)
Source: Purchased
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Welcome to Elsewhere. It is warm, with a breeze, and the beaches are marvelous. It’s quiet and peaceful. You can’t get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere’s museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatric practice.

Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver’s license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she’s dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn’t want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well.

How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward?

This moving, often funny book about grief, death, and loss will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.

Review


It's been a really long time since I've read a YA book with such a refreshing premise—no vampires, complicated love triangles, or anything remotely Hunger Games-esque here! Now, Elsewhere was published way before the current of "trendy" YA fiction began to flow, which stresses its originality, and its purpose on bookshelves today.

I love the take on reincarnation that's detailed—it's fascinating, imaginative, and immersed me completely from page one! Zevin is also highly accomplished at creating relatable, completely memorable characters. The limited third-person point of view makes Liz rather distant, but she's still easy to appreciate. She's as neurotic and elaborate as any adolescent is: impressively mature at times, but frustratingly childish at others. I feel she's a bit naïve for a nearly-sixteen-year-old; don't get me wrong: her characterization is amazing, but her superficial portrayal is a little contradicting at times. As a teenage girl, though, she is perfectly accurate. Zevin couldn't have depicted the conflicting feelings and angsts of the modern teenager any better. 

Elsewhere is a feel-good novel that keeps you tense and uneasy while reading, but leaves you both breathless and sighing in relief by the turn of the last page. It offers brilliant perspective on experiencing things to the fullest and never underestimating those around you who love you. Through Liz's journey in Elsewhere, spending her life in reverse, I learned that
 life isn't measured in hours and minutes; it's the quality that matters, not the length. And we, as people, grow with those experiences, not with age.

Young adults will devour this book, and better yet, parents will approve of it because of its tasteful, positive portrayal of life's decisions and values. Zevin's style is evocative, dreamy, and almost transcendent—I'm definitely eager to try some of her other books now.

With a dash of charming romance, wry humor, and life-loving sentiments, Elsewhere engages readers into an afterlife where people falsely are under the impression that they know what will be JUST because they know the amount of time they have left to "live." But like I mentioned, it's experiences that matter, not time; this secret, Liz and readers discover together, in the most delightful and adventurous of ways. In the town of Elsewhere, Liz has the chance to live again, to live as she never got to on Earth. To fall in love. To get a job. To know the part of her family she has never known. And she's going to have to make the most of it because even though it may not be clear all the time, good things happen everyday, even when bad things happen first.

Pros


Well-explored characters // Perfect ending // I was cheering at every one of Zevin's plot choices // Lyrical // Stylistically flawless // Plot is incredibly smart, entertaining, and touching // Very easy // Flows smoothly // Unpredictable // Not a high thriller, but its twists and turns are equally unnerving // Romance is perfectly placed // Deep in message of youth, forgiveness, and the meaning of life // Creative premise // Fresh ideas // Sweet, memorable analogies // Owen ♥_♥ // Curtis ♥_♥

Cons


Not particularly suspenseful... I was glued to the pages, but not exactly dying to know what happened next // Liz is frustrating at times, but I guess it's all part of her character!

Love

The summer air is thick with perfume from Betty's flowers. The scent, Liz thinks, is sweet and melancholy. A bit like dying, a bit like falling in love.

Verdict


Elsewhere is a complex, probing novel wrapped up in a minimalistic, lyrical package of prose. In the vein of The Five People You Meet in Heaven, this book is haunting, affecting, and deeply resonant, and is sure to be a hit among middle-grade and teenage readers (ages 11-16), but even better, among adults as well; the universality makes it all the more impressive. Hilarious in some parts and alarming in others, Gabrielle Zevin's surprisingly and pleasantly touching otherworldly story will make you fall in love—with your friends and family, with your life, and with yourself—and satisfy completely Americanflag

9 hearts: Loved it! This book has a spot on my favorites shelf (x)