Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Elsewhere Review

Fifteen-year-old Liz is the victim of a fatal hit and run, and this is the novel's beginning. Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin is not the typical author's declaration of “this is what my version of heaven looks like.” It is something completely different, insofar as the afterlife goes. After waking up on the SS Nile, Liz is taken to the island of Elsewhere, where she lives with her grandmother Betty, who died before Liz was born. Here she will age backwards until she becomes a baby again and she will be reborn on Earth. This sounds appealing to those who die in their old age, but to Liz, she will never become a woman. And now she will never get her proper driver's license, go to prom, have children, or even see her sweet-sixteen. While she can see her family from Observation Decks, she can never be with them again. 
Elsewhere is written in the third person with an omniscient narrator that follows mostly Liz, but also other characters as well. Liz is a well-written character; her actions and feelings are believable for her age and circumstances, and she is the not over-the-top “stubborn teen” or unrealistically perfect. The secondary characters are all detailed and have secure places in the narrative. This book isn't about heaven, though some reviews refuse to see beyond these terms. This novel creates an imaginative world that is interesting to read about because it uniquely belongs to Zevin. The world of Elsewhere simply operates, whether Liz likes it or not, and she has to try to find herself in this “life,” when she never really got to experience her first life on Earth. The book is written with a clear simplicity and will interest readers who appreciate an imaginative setting that they can also recognize. 5/5 

 Zevin, Gabrielle. Elsewhere. Harrisonburg: Square Fish, 2005. Print.
$6.95 US/$8.95 Can. (Square Fish is an imprint of Macmillan.)  

Gabrielle Zevin writes young adult fiction as well as adult fiction, and her website is here, with the Elsewhere section here (this page also has the international covers, which is interesting to compare).   

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