Release Date: September 9th, 2005
Publisher: Square Fish
Genre(s): YA Contemporary? (This book was hard to place because it feels/reads like a contemporary, but it's about a girl's life in heaven. I guess it could also be considered Fantasy?)
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?
I’ve only read one another book written by this author- Memoir’s of a Teenage Amnesiac- and that was an “eh” read for me as well. Maybe it’s because I had high expectations for both books. Both of them had extremely interesting premises, which was why they had both been on the top of my to-read list. (I finally found Elsewhere at my school library, hidden behind two Twilight books (don’t judge! I wanted to reread Cinder by Marissa Meyer). I know- I was confused too.) And both were huge letdowns- at least in my opinion.
Elsewhere was very interesting (the concept and the world), but half the book was bland, while the other half was rushed. After a certain point, we only see pieces of her life until she finally becomes age 0 and goes back to Earth. It skipped around a lot, and I really didn’t like that effect because I felt the last third or so of the story was like a summary, rather than a story.
I guess my problem with this entire book was that the story telling was very detached and shallow (not personality wise, but depth wise). I expected more out of this book emotionally, and while at the very, very, very end, I had a slight twinge of melancholy, 99% of the book I was just reading it to get to the end. The tone of the entire book was like:
Liz did this.
Liz did that.
This is Owen.
Owen wants a dog.
I felt no connection to the characters, and I had no sympathy for Liz. I felt the author could have portrayed Liz better. I understood her intent was sympathy and understanding from us readers, but Liz came across as annoying and a bit bratty. She spent a lot of money- lying to Betty even to get that money- just staring at her old life from a far. Call me heartless, but during that phase, all I could think about was the money wasting. And there was a lot of telling rather than showing. I believe every single character had a detailed profile that told us everything about them, instead of us- the readers- getting to know them through their actions and interactions. I can’t say the characters were cardboard because I got to know them quite well, but it was like reading a straightforward biography about them. The characters themselves hardly had any emotions as well, which made for a boring read.
The romance was very awkward, not only because of the age thing, but also because it was very abrupt. (Granted, the book was not about the romance, but still.) The author gave us maybe one chapter on their flirting, if you could even call it that. It was just them hanging out together so Liz would learn how to drive. Later, they have an awkward confession, and all of a sudden, they love each other. (The romance was bordering on insta-love, but at this point, I didn’t care enough for any of the characters to be too peeved about it.) I wished the author didn’t include the romance in the book because it felt very forced, and I felt it really undermined the message of the book.
Undeniably, the premise was interesting, but the writing and the story falls flat. One thing I did enjoy was Alvy and Liz’s relationship with each other after her death. It was very sweet, and I wish the rest of the book could have been like this: sweet, but melancholy.
Rating: 2 out of 5