February 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Release by Patrick Ness | SLJ Review

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redstarNESS, Patrick. Release. 288p. ­HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062403193.

Gr 9 Up –Adam, a rising senior with complex social and familial relationships, experiences the worst day of his life to date. The former boyfriend for whom he still has romantic feelings, and his BFF—witty and wise Korean adoptee Angela who might be into both guys and girls—are both going away; his older brother, a seminary student, has gotten a new girlfriend pregnant and turns to Adam to help smooth the way for breaking the news to their fundamentalist preacher father; and Adam’s boss fires him when the boy won’t accept his sexual advances. Ness manages to pack all this drama into a coherent and compulsively readable story line peopled with credible, rounded characters among the teens and the adults. A secondary plot thread involves a supernatural event unfolding in the same small town, but this extra layer doesn’t adhere to Adam’s story in any manner that enriches either. Adam’s emotional geography is fully stripped and revealed through his conversations with those in his life and his actions. He feels rejected by his parents for his gay identity, which they refuse to acknowledge, and worries about whether he is capable of treating his new boyfriend fairly in light of his lingering feelings for his former one. While there is explicit sex depicted here, it falls well within the bounds of YA and is important in building plot and characters. Discussions revolving around a repressive version of fundamentalist Christianity are also relevant and realistic. VERDICT An excellent choice for all teen collections.–Francisca Goldsmith, Library Ronin, Worcester, MA

This review was published in the School Library Journal September 2017 issue.

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