Book Review

Gabrielle Zevin – Elsewhere

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?

elsewhere
4 out of 5 stars

I think this was one that I picked up in a book store at an American airport. You know at the end of a holiday there’s always some currency left over that you need to get rid of? I don’t know why I never tried to keep it as it was rarely long before we were back again. Maybe I just wanted an excuse to buy a couple of books! I don’t get to buy books new often, but I get so excited when I can! It was (quite) a few years ago that I bought this one – it was published in 2005. It’s always stayed with me as one that I remember though so I decided to read it again.

Fifteen year old Liz Hall is a hit and run victim, and a life taken way too soon. She wakes up on board S.S. Nile – a ship which is taking her, and many others who have died, to Elsewhere. When she arrives she meets her grandmother for the very first time. Here she finds out that on Elsewhere lives are lived backwards, until you are a baby again and can be re-born. She’s upset at how early her life ended – she didn’t get to go to the prom, or take her drivers test. And she misses her pug. Eventually she’s encouraged to get a job so she starts working in the Canine unit, looking after the animals that come in. (This bit I loved – I do have a slight obsession with dogs though). I don’t want to give too much away about the novel as I feel it’s best read without knowing too much.

Elsewhere is well-written and a beautiful way to imagine the afterlife. Although this is technically a young-adults book, I would suggest that it is suitable for all ages. Depending on who is reading the book, I imagine that it hits home in a slightly different way too. For a book about death it’s funny and uplifting, but it’s also heartbreaking. I cried the first time, and I’ve cried every time since. It’s got 3.9 stars out of 5 on Goodreads and judging from the reviews, even if some didn’t enjoy the story it still made them think about what might happen after death – and I love books that make you think! If you get a chance to read it I’d love to hear your opinion – You can get a copy here!

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