Sunday, October 21, 2007

Book Review: Elsewhere

Elsewhere (Ala Notable Children's Books. Older Readers) by Gabrielle Zevin

Okay, so, I write Young Adult fiction, and so I am always on the lookout for good examples of it. They're not always easy to find. This is a genre that needs some serious attention, because among all of the ridiculously pointless and out there fantasy (and I do like good fantasy) and then the chick-lit, popular girl titles there is precious little of weight. Greats like Tamora Pierce, Madeline L'Engle, Dodie Smith and others are, in my opinion, under appreciated.

I even think that most middle reader books are better than YA. But this review isn't about my views on writing. It's about Elsewhere.

I picked it up because the author wrote another book (Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac) that I want to read, but then I couldn't put this one down. It's incredibly creative. Even though the "dead teenage girl coping with death" thing has been done and even the alternative to heaven is reminiscent of The Lovely Bones: A NovelI still found this book very original because of the little details.

In it, Liz is a fifteen-year-old girl who is killed when she is hit by a cab driver. When she wakes up, she's in Elsewhere, a kind of otherworld where humans spend time growing backwards, until as babies again they go back to Earth. I doubt it's never been done, but I like the way Zevin deals with it. She also manages to put a sweet love story in it, and says a lot about the nature of life and time.

There, are, though, some elements that I could do without. The dead communicate with the living through.... water. Original, but a little odd for me. Also, the insistence that Liz was, in life, "a normal fifteen year old", just because I don't think such a thing exists.

But other than that, I really enjoyed this book. The aging backwards when you came to care about the character was painful, and I admit to crying at the end. I wish there had been a little bit more of her family's dealing with her death, and, well, I won't ruin it, but a little more detail on her choice to make a certain decision.

But, as much as I liked it, I can't let go of the similarity to The Lovely Bones.


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