Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Source: Purchased paperback
Buy: Amazon ~*~ Barnes & Noble
Caution: May contain spoilers
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? This moving, often funny book about grief, death, and loss will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.
~synopsis from Goodreads
I have to admit, I was irritated at first. It’s a strange concept, but still interesting at the very least. I think it was mostly the writing--flow of the story and the odd way things would happen that made it irritating. That seems ambiguous, I know. An easier way to explain it would be that it felt like more of a middle grade novel than a young adult novel. It had simpler explanations and sentences seemed constructed with a younger reader in mind. Which by it’s own right isn’t that bad, just unexpected and a bit different.
Liz dies at 15 and is not allowed to go back to her former life. Instead of getting older, she gets younger. Imagine all that’s missed out on--I’m 26 and so much has happened in 11 years. She finds it hard to adjust to being dead (and reverse aging). She gets to be around her grandma, Betty, whom she never met on account that she died while her mom was pregnant with her. Betty tries to reason with her to get her to accept what has happened to her.
Liz is reluctant to move on, so she spends a lot of time watching people in her life back on earth. She finally reaches the point where she realizes she needs to choose to live (or whatever it should be called in Elsewhere) this new “life”. She picks an avocation (yep, you get a job) where she speaks to dogs (literally, she speaks Canine, which is very interesting) and earns Eternims (what they call money in Elsewhere). There is a romantic element involved as well, but I won’t go into it here as it’s not really the focal point of the story.
All in all, it was a decent story. The part that turned it around for me was a scene that described what Elsewhere was like. Someone described it like a tree: the Earth being the branches and Elsewhere being the roots. It was quite poetic. As I was nearing the end, I didn’t think I’d consider it a great book. But then the last bit actually made me tear up. Would a not so good book make me connect with the characters enough to nearly cry? I don’t think so.
Yes, this backwards growing thing was odd. The way it was written was odd. The things you can do in Elsewhere are odd. But it was still a very fascinating idea. And the way Liz lives her life (and her friends and family live theirs) in reverse gets increasingly engaging as it plays out in ways you may or may not anticipate. It does have the same feel as Memoirs Of A Teenage Amnesiac (also by Gabrielle Zevin). I’d recommend it for people who like dystopian societies (that sometimes slack on rules).
Pretty Good: Stay up until your bedtime