“With All His Aching Heart”: A Review of ‘RELEASE’ by Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness is one of those authors whose name you know even if you have never read a single one of his books. You have seen his books in bookstores, in your libraries and even in the hands of your friends. But if ever there was a time to pick up a Patrick Ness novel, it is now.

Release, the newest book from Ness, has been published this month, and it is a total gem. The book follows Adam who is having one of the most confronting days of his life. From friends moving away to family issues to relationship crises to workplace harassment and down to his own struggle to feel loved by the people around him, Release unabashedly tackles some of the most poignant themes and issues of being a young person with eye opening clarity.

Release carries with it echoes of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, a deliberate choice acknowledged by the author both in his author’s note and in the opening line of the novel – “Adam would have to buy the flowers himself.” I have never been the biggest fan of Mrs Dalloway, but Ness’ homage to the classic is brilliantly done. Much like Mrs Dalloway, Release takes place over the course of a single day with flashes of the past colouring the book in vivid detail. More than that, it is a carefully preserved flash of what it is like to be a young person in a world that is often still stuck in the past.

Release also owes a debt of gratitude to Judy Blume’s infamous Forever. The frank and somewhat explicit depictions of sex, discussions around loss of virginity and the boundaries of love and sex in relationships are crucial in the telling of this story, particularly when it comes to Adam’s ability to recognise and define his own attachments to other people. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing X-rated in these pages, but I would not recommend this book to younger readers. In my opinion, Release fits more aptly into the category of New Adult fiction than young Adult fiction, but I leave this up to your own judgement.

What made this book different from the typical Young Adult/New Adult novels I have read about young love, sex, and identity, was the strange yet stunning intertwinement of the ghost storyline into the book. At times, the sudden break in Adam’s storyline and shift into the perspective of the faun spirit following his Queen seemed abrupt and weird, yet it was entrancing all the same. Stemming from the news of the death of a local girl at the hands of her meth-head boyfriend, the spirit storyline brought with it the same sort of power as Adam’s storyline, as Katie, the young dead girl, confronts the people she knew in life, including her murderer, to enact her final judgements upon them. Paralleled with Adam’s grief and difficulties with his family, the spirits give the reader a chance to see what anger could have done to him in his times of pain, and what vengeance he could enact on the people who hurt him. However, it is Adam’s choice to be vulnerable and open to love that makes him fundamentally different, and what inadvertently ends the rage of the spirits.

My one criticism of this novel is the open thread left regarding the sexual harassment Adam faces at work from his boss. Seeing the struggle Adam has with the imbalance of power and the potential consequences of reporting his boss, alongside his own father’s doubt about the legitimacy and basis of the crime is one of the parts of this novel that really got at me, and so I would have liked to have seen some closure regarding this particular event. The novel ends with Adam’s co-workers pledging to help him get justice for the harassment, but ultimately, I think that I would have liked to see more done here. In saying that though, the conversation Adam has with his father about the sexual harassment and blackmail is one of the most heartbreaking discussions I have read in fiction lately, especially when it concludes with Adam’s father blaming Adam’s homosexuality for the advances from his boss, and final admission that he doesn’t love his son unconditionally – “You have know idea how much I work to love you”. Those words were a punch to the gut for both Adam and I.

Ness’ prose is exquisite. The ease and pulse of the writing meant that I devoured this book in just under 24 hours, whilst taking in every detail described. I felt at home in this story, despite some of the unfamiliar territory it covered. I felt as though Adam’s friend Angela was my own friend, and honestly, I did see a lot of my own friendships in the close bond that Adam and Angela shared. The friendship between them is one of the big standouts of this novel for me, and I think that is what held this novel together so well in amongst all the chaos of the events themselves. I think it is fair to say that this is a coming of age story for people who have already taken their first steps in adulthood, and reading this book with that perspective only enriches the story that Ness gives us in Release.

This is a novel that I will be passing onto friends, and I highly encourage you to get out and get your hands on a copy of this moving and tender novel. You won’t regret it.

Release

Release by Patrick Ness (Walker Books, RRP $24.99) is now available in all good bookstores. As always, INWORDSANDINK encourages its readers to buy from and support their local independent bookstores and support independent press.

Thank you once again to Walker Books Australia for sending me a copy of Release. Whilst I was sent the book for reviewing purposes, I was not in any way paid or financially obligated to write this review.

 

© Hayley New 2017

A Journal of Small Pleasures | New/Old Music

 

There has been a surge of new music releases in the last few weeks. But none have captured me in the way that a small number of artists have.

***

2013 and 2014 were strange years for me, marking my final year of high school and my first year of university. It was a time of major transition, not only in terms of education, but also of changes in my personal relationships with people and how I viewed myself. I spent a lot of time travelling – long car trips with friends, bus rides to work, trains to and from university – and these vast spaces were filled with music. My tastes in music had changed and evolved over this time, and while a few old favourites stayed, a lot of new music poured into my life.

***

PARAMORE

Paramore was not new to me in 2013. I had always been surrounded by Paramore fans, but I had never found myself as hooked on their music as my friends.

But then the self-titled album came out. And Paramore became a staple for me. They featured on every mix CD I gave to my friends for long car rides. We all knew the words, and the right moments to clap in the middle of a song.

‘Still Into You’ made me envious of Hayley Williams and her crazy vocals. ‘Ain’t It Fun’ was the growing-up anthem I didn’t know I needed until I had it on loop. ‘Grow Up’ helped me get over bad friendships that were falling apart. To this day, that song always reminds me of the friends I had to leave behind in order to find myself.

Paramore’s self-titled album was the right album at the right time.

***

HAIM

I came across HAIM by accident. I had heard ‘The Wire’ on the radio more than once, and it often played at work, but I never knew who sang it. Spotify rectified that for me.

I soon played all of Days Are Gone on repeat for hours in my room and danced around to the stunning vocals and dramatic beats. I had never heard anything like these women. I wanted to be as effortlessly cool as they were. ‘If I Could Change Your Mind’ was the song I listened to whenever I was getting ready to go out, and I spent longer than I care to admit trying to learn the dance routine from the music video.

HAIM sang their way through my train journeys and there was a song for every moment, every feeling I had. And they were mine. None of my friends knew them, and I never shared them. HAIM was my little secret, and I wanted them to stay that way. Sometimes music feels like it should just be yours, if only for a short while, and I didn’t want to lose HAIM. They were too important.

***

BLEACHERS

Bleachers was a gift given to me by Lena Dunham’s Girls. After binge watching Girls I fell into a Google wormhole and came out the other side clutching Strange Desire.

I knew Jack Antonoff from his FUN days, but Bleachers was such a different sound. ‘Rollercoaster’ was instantly a summer song. It was bright and beautiful and fun. But it was probably ‘I Wanna Get Better’ that hooked me. I was going through a rough patch when I heard this song for the first time, and it got right at the heart of how I was feeling without making me feel like a cliched sad person.

Bleachers was unlike anything I had listened to before, and I was surprised to find myself listening to it as much as I did. I didn’t love the whole album equally, but I knew the songs I was going to keep with me in case of an emergency, and that was important in those days.

***

Recently, each of these groups have released new music for the first time since 2013/2014. Whilst I listened to their old music every now and then since, it was the recent release of new music from each of them that has pulled me in all over again.

It is strange hearing these voices for the first time again. They are new. But they are familiar as well. And somehow it makes it seem like 2013/2014 again.

I am in a new period of transition at the moment – finishing up my undergraduate course at university and working out what to do next. I have big plans, much in the same way I did back then. But the strange tug of the past has curled around my heart in these songs.

It is amazing how much emotional value music has for us. For me, music is always intertwined with memories – of specific events, of certain friends, of big moments in my life – and it was a weird coincidence that all three of these groups that had such an impact on an important moment of my life have released new music at the same time, a time that mirrors the changes of 2013 and 2014. All those memories of happy moments, moments where hard choices were made, and moments of in-between are flooding back with these voices, these songs.

I am a different person then I was, and these songs remind me of that. But some things haven’t changed at all, and it is the comfort of knowing that I will always be able to mark my memories with music, with this music, that brings a little more sun back.

It’s time for memories worth the soundtrack I have been given.

 

I have made a Spotify Playlist with some of my favourite songs from Paramore, HAIM and Bleachers, from their 2013/2014 albums and their latest releases. Check it out here.

 

© Hayley New 2017

 

 

A Bold Yet Bittersweet Verse: A Review of Crossan & Conaghan’s ‘We Come Apart’

 

When We Come Apart was released in March, there was a lot of buzz about it online. It was constantly coming up on my twitter feed and was dominating discussions of Young Adult fiction online. Needless to say I was curious.

So when I received a copy of the book in a surprise bundle of books from Bloomsbury Australia, I couldn’t resist reading it as soon as possible. And believe me when I say, I was not disappointed.

We Come Apart makes something new out of Young Adult fiction. Authors Brian Conaghan and Sarah Crossan made the bold move of writing the whole book in verse, a form usually reserved for poetry or plays. In choosing to write a book for teenagers and young adults in this form, Conaghan and Crossan have opened up an opportunity for these young audiences to read something in verse without being hindered by the presumption that it is going to be beyond their reach or even ‘boring’ as many young people view Shakespeare or most poetry to be. Instead, We Come Apart brings a relatable story for young people to new life, by challenging the ways we tell our stories.

The book itself is a relatively easy and fast read, not only because of the sparse and carefully chosen language, but also because of the story itself. Jess and Nicu are the kind of people we all know – the girl who pretends she doesn’t care to hide how much she does care, and the immigrant boy who wants more than what his old life could offer him. Personally, I found Nicu to be the most interesting character to read through. His chapters were often the ones with the most beautiful language choices, even hidden in the markings of his struggles with English as his second language. It is Nicu who gives us the book’s title, and the meaning behind it. It is Nicu who breaks our hearts. And it is Nicu who will probably stay with me long after Jess.

In saying that though, Jess’ storyline is not without incredible writing. There is a lot hidden in her narrative, and I wish I could know what she does after the last page. We leave her with a whole uncertain future ahead of her and when I finished the last page, I wanted to know what happens to her just as much as I wanted to know what happened to Nicu. For me, it reminded me a lot of the last pages of John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars – it conjured the same feeling of wanting to know, yet feeling like knowing what happens next would ruin what just happened on the page. I was incredibly emotionally invested in this story, and for me, that is the mark of a great book.

This is a book I would recommend to all teens, especially those who have previously struggled with poetry, plays or any other verse. We Come Apart is striking and beautifully composed, and I wish more authors were willing to be bold in their choices while writing YA Fiction. I applaud Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan for being bold and making something incredible out of it.

 

9781408878866

 

We Come Apart (Bloomsbury, $17.99) is now available in all good book stores. As always, INWORDSANDINK encourages its readers to buy from, and support their local independent book stores.

Thank you once again to Bloomsbury Australia for sending me a copy of Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan’s We Come Apart for review. Whilst I was sent the book for reviewing purposes, I was not in any way paid or financially obligated to write this review.

 

 

© Hayley New 2017