Published by Walker Books on May 4th 2017
Format: Advance Readers Copy
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.
First of all, whilst reading ‘Release‘, I had a mixture of emotions to unpack. After finishing the book with a, I suppose, quite ‘pleasant’ ending, I felt rather disengaged with the book. I just felt disinterested and for me that’s a first, as Patrick Ness is one of my favourite authors who writes books for the soul.
The cast of characters were very hard to love. I only had a soft spot for Linus, our nerdy character. Linus definitely deserved better and more time throughout the book. He’s one, if not, the only character I truly enjoyed while the rest were dislikeable, terrible, tokenistic or never truly given enough thought on how to describe them. This extends to the black characters Renee and Karen who deserved more love and care.
For the majority of the book, it only felt like we scratched the surface of Adam’s character. It was very rare to have him open up. I finished the book and I truly had no idea who ‘Adam Thorn’ really was; Was he shy? Was he one of those bright smart kids? Was he talkative? Who knows, because I sure don’t. I wish there was more insight on all the characters. On who they were, what they really believed in and what their connection was with Adam. I understand that throughout this book we get some sort of insight of these characters but it was honestly not enough to truly understand the cast of characters.
There’s a lot of homophobia in this book and a negative discourse with labels. ‘Release‘ explore homophobia within a religious homophobic family who use their beliefs as a reason to emotionally abuse their son because of his sexuality. They don’t outwardly say this but they suspect their son is ‘different’ and pray for him to get ‘better’. I was never raised in a household like Adam’s but I sure do appreciate Ness sharing his story. Continuing on, one character realises that the reason for their break up with their ex-partner was because their partner was “bisexual or fluid” like Angela. This was really confusing. Are they blaming someones sexuality on why their partner had chosen to break up with them? Even Angela’s explanation about labels had negative discourse about those who choose to have labels. As if the label constricted them from freedom, from their true selves. However, labels are great for those who love them. They shouldn’t be shamed for having them. People with labels are valid and exist and deserve to be happy. Angela, who is Adam’s best friend, asks him if he’s sure he isn’t gay and is willing to try things out. Adam quickly explains that his label liberated him though and was his ‘map’ that guides. So I thank Ness for unpacking that negative discourse and making sure that those with or without labels are valid.
Homophobia also reeks from Adam’s parents who continually admire his older brother and just ‘put up with him‘. It is truly saddening that his parents have been talking about his sexuality behind his back, for years and have basically tried to ‘pray the gay away‘. It doesn’t work like that. Yet, this storyline is a reality for others and for that, I applaud Patrick for sharing an aspect of how he grew up. Adam, even after receiving blow after blow, was strong and stayed strong after all the tears. The way Patrick handled this situation and allowed Adam to be empowered towards the ends was something I really enjoyed.
‘Release’ also features a scene that contained sexual harassment. This scene was very disturbing and unsettling. What was even worse was the victim blaming. It was disgusting. The character didn’t deserve this. They don’t deserve parents who have to “fight to love him“.
Wade is an awful character who has a brief scene in the book. He uses ‘pussy’ and ‘f*gg*t’ against Adam. It makes him feel small and it sure did make me feel small too. It was an effort to read through this book. As mentioned before, it’s an important book, but the issues it deals with are very confronting, harmful and triggering. So please be careful when picking up this book.
Early in the pages, Ness uses queer to describe something odd. This is one of my personal pet peeves, because when reclaiming the word queer, I dislike it when it’s used to describe something that is weird, strange or freaky.
Adam’s older brother Marty was disgusting from the get go. I was appalled by his actions and by a particular suggestion he makes to Adam. I was shaking my head at the dialogue. It was uncomfortable and was awful overall. Lastly, there’s a moment in the first pages when Adam recalls the time that Ange “swore [her parents] adopted her from Korea because it was cheaper then hiring a labourer for the livestock“. This was literally my reaction:
Like how is this sentence okay? Adam states that this wasn’t true… but why share it anyway? Ange was a character I loved and disliked. Overall, her character felt inauthentic and gave off tokenistic vibes. I wish I could walk away and say I enjoyed this book from the very first page, but that would be a lie.
Release is definitely a story that needs to be told, but it’s a book that I don’t need, especially in this political climate. ‘Release‘ was a slab of mediocrity and then a pinch of the WOW factor. The fantasy sections of the book made it worth the read. It also a sign that Patrick Ness could devote himself in writing another fantasy novel and I’d love it. ‘Release‘ is important but it wasn’t worth the struggle of reading and enduring the sexual harassment, homophobia and emotional abuse. It is with that in mind that I have decided to rate ‘Release‘ by Patrick Ness a total of two and a half stars. It was a good book, just not a book for me.
Will you be picking up ‘Release‘? Did you enjoy my break down? Don’t enjoy sad queer stories? Do you have any recommendations on happy queer stories? Comment below to let me know!