Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review: Elsewhere

Title: Elsewhere
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Release Date: August 10, 2005
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Cover Designer:
 Nancy Goldenberg
Age Audience: YA
Genre: Magical realism
Tagline: Is it possible to grow up while getting younger?
Summary: 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?

My Review:
Reading this book was a little like talking to a close friend. You know them very well and you don’t do anything amazing, but you could talk forever and will never grow tired of their company.

I loved the concept. Just the idea of living your life backwards until you’re a baby again felt so exotic and intriguing. The world building was excellently done as well. Elsewhere was similar to Earth. People lived in houses and drove cars and had friends and family. Yet at the same time, it was too different to be mistaken for Earth. I’ll admit that I had misgivings when a new gallery of Picasso paintings is mentioned near the beginning of the book. I thought that Picasso would have already been born on Earth again! But after some research, I realized that Picasso still would have been in Elsewhere at the time of Liz’s death, and I praise Gabrielle Zevin for putting the effort into making every little detail accurate.

Elsewhere is written in third-person present tense. It was very different to read from the perspective in Gabrielle Zevin’s other novel I’ve read (All These Things I’ve Done was in first-person past tense), but I really liked it. A few times the point of view jumped from one character to another, but instead of being confusing it gave us better insight on what was going on.

I’m not a fan of talking animals stories, and I’m not much of a dog person. But I didn’t mind the fact that dogs could talk in this book. I especially liked the one chapter told from the point of view of Lucy, Liz’s pug on Earth. It was interesting to see the story interpreted by a dog, and it only took me a couple pages to realize that a human wasn’t the narrator.

If I could only use one sentence to describe Elsewhere, it would be this: It was such a good book. To me, just that simple statement sums it up. Even though you can tell how the book will end just by reading the synopsis, it was a fresh and pleasant story without any of that over-the-top romance I despise.

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