Saturday, January 07, 2006

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

What happens when we die? For 15 year-old Liz Hall, it's not a question anymore. After she gets hit by a car, Liz finds herself on a cruise ship heading for the destination of Elsewhere. The life Liz knew is over and with it go all her dreams of the future. She will never turn 16, get her driver's license, go to the prom, or fall in love. Elsewhere, a perfect island community where the deceased inhabits continue their lives while aging in reverse, holds no happiness for Liz. She meets her grandmother, a woman who died before she was born, and makes friends. All the while struggling with all she lost by dying so young.

There have been a number of books in recent years that dealt with the main character as dead, especially in the realm of the YA novel. The ones I can recall the best are The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb. Elsewhere falls into this category and doesn't really do anything to set itself apart as a breakout novel, but it is a good book. Elsewhere is a quiet book. While Liz's death is tragic, it is not violent and intentional. She is hit by a car while riding her bicycle to the mall. Liz's afterlife is calm and almost normal. (Elsewhere kind of reminds me of the Town of Perfect shown in the series of Walgreens commercials.) She makes friends, gets a job, and goes on with her "after" life. The tone of the book is calm, simple, and patient. It sounds undeniably boring, but it wasn't. I liked this book. My boss brought it back from a convention and offered it to me, we like to read what we are putting out into the middle school library. I took it home and couldn't put it down. I finished it that night. It was just that good. It is not an action packed adventure with secrets at every turn. It is not a highly mental book where every page brings up new questions. It's not the best book ever written. It is a great read with lots of quiet thoughts and ideas. It can be emotional, both crying and smiling all the way to the end of the book. It is one of the more happier books in the "dead character' group of books.

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