Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Elsewhere - by Gabrielle Zevin

Wow! I haven’t read a book this imaginative and intriguing in a really long time. I struggle with summarizing books in my reviews for two reasons: 1. I want these to be reviews, not just summaries and 2. I hate spoiling surprises. I don’t even read the descriptions on the backs of books because I do not want to know what is going to happen. I like being surprised by a story, and this one definitely surprised me.

That said, without spoiling too much, the basic premise of this book is that a 15-year-old girl, Liz, dies and travels to Elsewhere, where the dead live and age backwards until they become babies and they are sent back to Earth. Now this does not agree with my vision of the afterlife at all, but maybe that’s partially why I find this book so intriguing; the book is so creative I don’t think it’s similar to the way anyone envisions the afterlife, and because it’s so visionary, conflicts come up that I have never imagined before so this book was incredibly thought provoking.

A lot of people would be happy with the prospect of growing young, but the news makes Liz angry and depressed. She knows she will never go to prom or go to college or travel the world, and the only connection she has with her old life is watching her family from the observation decks in Elsewhere. She feels her life in Elsewhere doesn’t matter because she knows the exact date it will end and she’ll be sent back to Earth to start over.

There are three tiny parts of this story that I could have done without. The first two are pretty similar, when Liz watches her parents on earth having sex and when Liz watches her best friend Zoey lose her virginity after Prom. The book only provides as much detail on those two events as I just provided you, but just the idea of Liz watching both of those things is creepy and gross and it really wasn’t necessary to advance the story. The third was also unnecessary, when Liz sees mermaids in the ocean. As bizarre as the plot of this whole novel may sound, it wasn’t until Liz saw mermaids that I found myself thinking, “That is so unrealistic!”

There’s a little bad language and a few trite moments, but overall I really enjoyed this book. Liz’s voice rings true as a teenager struggling to grow up. I promise the book is better than I make it sound!


Anonymous said...

Very interesting premise indeed. Good review too.


Anonymous said...

I have been intrigued by how willingly people seem to have a need to be taken in by this book. Not only is it illogical (where would people go after they couldn't be reincarnated as babies anymore...after the earth is gone, etc.) it is cynical (there can be no God who reveals himself, for God is only whatever "He She or It" was to people before they died. Therefore, there is no true God at all! That is the proclamation of this book. If that is what people want to believe, they may ignore the evidence of a Creator and bury their heads in the sand of such a story, wishing it were so simply because it makes the afterlife seem as though it will be no different in essence than what we already know...

To me, that seems sad, that people take comfort in such a thought.