Patrick Ness' Release gives the horror and ecstasy of teenage life the personal touch (3 stars)

Patrick Ness' Release gives the horror and ecstasy of teenage life the personal touch

Charismatic teen Adam Thorn is the latest in a long line of terrific protagonists brought to life in Ness' young adult fiction

Billed as his most personal novel yet, Patrick Ness' new book for young adults will be warmly welcomed by his fans, though it's probably not the one to start with if you're a Ness newbie.

In Release, Adam Thorn is a charismatic, witty gay teen in Washington state, cursed with strongly religious parents who think he's made the wrong 'lifestyle choice' - and he's having one hell of a day. The love of his life is leaving town, his best friend Angela is hiding something, his devoutly Christian older brother drops a bombshell, his boss is a creep and he's not sure how he feels about his latest boyfriend. Plus, his town is still reeling from one of his peers being murdered up by the lake - which is coincidentally where the party he's going to that night is being held. And alongside Adam's own personal hell, a ghost is being raised from the dead.

Ness is best known for his superlative Chaos Walking trilogy (think Northern Lights for the next generation) and bona fide weepie A Monster Calls (recently made into a film starring Rogue One's Felicity Jones and Edinburgh lad, Lewis MacDougall). But Release is more reminiscent of his eerie afterlife adventure More Than This and 2015's Buffy homage, The Rest of Us Just Live Here.

It's signature Ness in many ways, particularly in how it sensitively and maturely deals with the horrors - and the ecstasies - of teenage life. Yet the ghostly side plot is a little weak and, though the twain do meet, it doesn't quite gel alongside the strength of Adam's story. Based loosely on Ness' own experience growing up, it's here that the novel really shines; Adam's insecurities and struggle with his parents' beliefs are heartbreaking. Ness' fictional worlds are littered with fantastic characters: Adam is a wonderful addition to the panoply.

Out Thu 4 May

Patrick Ness

The writer discusses and signs copies of his latest novel Release. American author Patrick Ness writes short stories, screenplays and novels, for both adults and children. His books include The Rest of Us Just Live Here and A Monster Calls, which was adapted into a 2017 film starring Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver and…

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