Author: Gabrielle Zevin
On the Shelves: Young Adult> Contemporary
“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? This moving, often funny book about grief, death, and loss will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned” (Goodreads 2014)
I enjoy reading books in which authors can explore what they think lies beyond Death. I enjoy the show Dead Like Me- the idea that every so often, a new person is “Reaped” to be a grim reaper. I enjoy the Mediator series by Meg Cabot, where Suze helps the ghosts to “move on” to the Afterlife or the hereafter or whatever you want to call it. So it made sense that I would enjoy Elsewhere.
“Elsewhere” is exactly that. It is nowhere and everywhere at the same time. It is, in a sense, the “afterlife”- except one major part is backwards. From the day you arrive in Elsewhere, you are aging younger- younger until you become a baby once again. Once you become a baby again, you are “Released” on the river back to earth, to your new life- think of it as re-incarnation. So if, like Liz, you die at age 15, you will be in Elsewhere for 15 years until you become a week old baby again.
I found this to be an interesting concept, along with the idea of the OD’s (Observational Decks), where those who have died can watch the people they love on Earth through binoculars for the low price of one coin per 5 minutes. I can understand how so many dead would get addicted to these ODs very quickly, unless they had nobody left on earth they care about- I don’t know which situation would be sadder, personally.
I was fine reading this book until the ending. The second Sadie, her dog, was “released”, I was tearing up. And then her old dog Lucy arrived in Elsewhere and, blaming the fact that my old dog was named Lucy, I just lost it entirely. I read this book in one sitting but hadn’t realised I’d become quite so attached to the characters of Liz and Betty, her grandmother, or even to Sadie- but I had. Zevin’s writing sucks you in entirely and although this book isn’t massively long, and it isn’t what I’d call an “amazing” book, it certainly has enough originality and creativity that it stands out in your memory from the crowd- and that is a sign of a good book, in my opinion.