Friday, 23 April 2010

Review: Elsewhere

Dear Blog,

It's been a couple of days since I did a review.  Oops. Well, I'm back with a review of Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin, which I've literally just finished.  It's a reasonably short review, but is there such a thing as reviewer's block?  If there is, I think I may have it.

Summary (from the blurb): When Liz is killed in a hit-and-run accidente her "life" takes a very unexpected turn.  At nearly sixteen she knows she will never get married, never have children, and perhaps never fall in love. But in Elsewhere all things carry on almost as they did on earth except that the inhabitants get younger, new relationships are formed and old ones, which had been sadly interupted, are renewed. 

Review: First things first- it is true that "books narrated from beyond the grave are fast losing their novelty", in a quote from the Sunday Telegraph.  But, well, this isn't narrated directly from beyond the grave.  It's told in a spare, simplistic third-person present tense that reminds me a little of Exodus by Julie Bertagna.  Elsewhere is a sort of  Lovely Bones meets Benjamin Button novel.    Because in the afterlife you can't exactly grow old and die, you get younger and younger until you're seven days old, when you're sent downriver and back to Earth to be born again.  It's a wonderful idea.

I'm not quite sure what to make of Liz.  By half-way into the book I wanted to yell, "you're dead, get over it!" (I just re-read that and realised how hilarious that sounded) But I don't know how I would react if that happened to me.  Who knows, I could be as whiny and depressed as she was.  I do hope not.   Anyway, the third-person-present-tense narration didn't really seem to get inside her head, as if it truly was being told by somebody watching from a distance.  It didn't really explore her -or any of the characters, really-in depth. 

The other trouble with this book is that after a while Elsewhere (the place I mean) sort of loses its novelty.  The beginning of this book was good, and the last 50 pages or so were good as well (when the plot really picked up).  But there was a big space in the middle of the book where there was nought but...words.  And they weren't very exciting words, either.  Because Elsewhere is so like Earth, apart from the one obvious difference (one is reality and one is the afterlife), it sort of loses its, "wow!  This is the afterlife!" feel. And when Liz (eventually) gets used to it, nothing happens until the end.  BUT it's well worth reading to the end because your efforts shall be rewarded and ultimately you shall be a better person for reading it.  It's one of those books you finish a little wiser than when you started. 

Summary:  I would probably read Zevin's other book, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac.  If only because I'm drawn in by the plot.  It was an original idea and worth the read, but don't expect it to be as fantastic as the two pages of critical acclaim would lead you to believe. 
Rating: 3.25


  1. I wasn't impressed with Zevin's take on the afterlife. I mean, it seems kind of lame to die and then end up having to deal with pretty much the exact same problems after you die. The book was just okay for me.

  2. The same reaction with me.
    Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is much better :)


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