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Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Teenage Fiction, Fantasy
First Published: 2005
Liz was hit by a car when she was fifteen. She died. And then she woke up in Elsewhere...
Liz died when she was fifteen-years-old. She was the victim of a hit-and-run accident as she was on the way to the mall to meet her friend so they could buy prom dresses. Suddenly, Liz wakes up in Elsewhere, an afterlife where residents grow younger until they are babies again, when they are sent down the river and back to Earth. Suddenly, Liz realises that she will never have a prom, learn to drive or get a boyfriend.
Struggling to adapt to life in Elsewhere, Liz becomes obsessed with watching her family on Earth, costing her all of her time and money. Then one day, she meets Owen, and she realises that maybe her fifteen years in Elsewhere are a gift after all...
This book actually surprised me because I wasn't sure what to expect. I don't read many young adult/teen books now and I was concerned that I may not like it after spending so long reading classics! However, once I started reading, I couldn't put it down! The concept itself is fascinating - it offers a wonderful alternative of 'the afterlife' and is a lovely light read that offers an enlightening story.
Not only is the concept unique, but Zevin bravely decided to narrate the book's first chapter through the eyes of the family dog, giving a completely different perspective on death from anything I have read anywhere before. As it is a teen book, you have to expect the issues that usually come up in teen books, particularly the element of love. However, it is done in a way that doesn't make it dominate the plot, and the main focus is constantly on the magical place of Elsewhere.
I would strongly recommend this book, particularly for people who would like a quick, light read. It is incredibly enjoyable, and is really unlike any other book that I can recall!
Favourite quote: 'Oh, there are so many lives. How we wish we could live them concurrently instead of one by one by one. We could select the best pieces of each, stringing them together like a strand of pearls. But that's not how it works. A human's life is a beautiful mess.' (p. 234)
"Elsewhere" is a 'young adult' fiction novel by Gabrielle Zevin. It was published in 2005 and is available to purchase in both hardback and paperback. Prices for the paperback are from around £5 plus postage costs for a new copy, and from 1p plus postage costs for a used copy from www.amazon.co.uk. (Info correct as @ March 2012).
* THE STORY *
Fifteen year old Elizabeth 'Liz' Hall is killed in a hit and run accident. She is largely unaware of this when she first wakes up on a strange boat, in a room with a girl she doesn't know, and travelling to an unknown destination. It turns out that the destination is a place called "Elsewhere."
When the boat docks, there is a lady called Betty waiting at the pier for Liz. It turns out that Betty is actually Liz's grandmother from Earth, and has lived in Elsewhere for many years, having died before Liz was born. Living with Betty takes some getting used to, as do many of the strange ways of Elsewhere that are evident to Liz as she tries to adjust to her new 'life.'
Liz struggles to cope with living on Elsewhere and the reality that she will never see her family or friends again is difficult to accept. She can't get used to the idea that life is 'reversed' on Elsewhere, and she will never age to become a grown woman. Instead, she will get younger each year until she becomes a child, then, finally, a baby. She resents Betty and wishes she could see her family again, or at least speak to them one last time, but communication with people on Earth isn't possible on Elsewhere...... is it??
* MY OPINION *
I loved this book and before reading it, found myself hoping that it would live up to my expectations of offering something 'A bit different'.... it did, and more, and I found it entirely captivating from the first pages.
Whilst I have read many books about 'The Afterlife' before, I didn't find that Elsewhere was even remotely similar to any of them and since reading the book, I have found other readers' comparisons between it and books such as "The Lovely Bones" quite irritating as a result.... Elsewhere is a book that deserves to be judged on its own merits and its own enchanting tale, rather than being compared to any other piece of writing.
I found that the author's writing style was so descriptive that I was entirely engrossed in Liz's misadventures, which were all the more captivating as they took place in a completely new world as such. This could have been difficult to convey without enough 'depth' to make it believable to the reader, but this didn't happen at all. I also worried slightly before starting the book as to whether the storylines would 'stand' on their own amongst such a strong backdrop as a 'whole new world' kind of plot, but luckily the author's skill took care of both of these elements easily, and the storyline fitted in perfectly against it's dramatic - and completely new - background.
The idea behind the book is a very interesting one, giving a sort of 'rebirth' to the inhabitants of Elsewhere, and enchanting the reader in the process with the romantic concept that there IS life after death. The ideas and concepts given behind Elsewhere as a place made for some very interesting reading, and I thought that this brought something new to the whole idea of writing a book about what happens to people on Earth after we die. Indeed, I felt that enough depth was given by the author to how Elsewhere 'worked' and how the people there 'lived' that it made me sure that Elsewhere was a place that could most definitely be re-visited again in the future by way of future books from the author. Indeed, any such future books would certainly be a welcome addition to my own book shelf, given my enjoyment of Elsewhere.
The story itself was interesting enough and offered enough 'new ideas' to make it a winner for me in itself, but I found a particularly heart-warming thread intertwined into the story by way of the canine characters who live on Elsewhere alongside the humans. This idea appealed to me immediately, given the fact I am a huge animal lover anyway, but I would be surprised if any readers of the book didn't find the doggy 'antics' to be wonderfully uplifting. The canine tales running throughout the story offered some light-hearted moments during a story that at times is rather sad, so I felt this offered a pleasant balance to the book overall. This concept also offered a slight reassurance - fictional or not - that humans and pets can live side by side in the afterlife, which was quite poignant for me personally.
I found the ending of the book was wonderfully thought out and it really did 'fit' the rest of the story. Without being overly sad, the ending was remarkably touching and I found that it stayed with me for quite a long time after finishing the book. It is fair to say that the ending had a touch of predictability about it, but this didn't take anything from the climatic finale, and the final pages of the book left me with a sentimental feeling about death and of course, life.
Elsewhere is a book that I would thoroughly recommend. It offers a completely new story, full of imaginative detail and memorable characters that offered a fascinating story that will stay with me for a very long time.
In a literary world preoccupied with Vampires, Magic and the unusual, or Teen Angst and Romance I am constantly on the look out for something different - and when I stumbled upon 'Elsewhere' by Gabrielle Zevin, I was sure I had found my escape from the mainstream concepts.
And I was right!
Elsewhere follows Liz, a girl who, in her words, "forgot to look both ways before she crossed the street" and was killed. The hit-and-run changes her 'life' completely, with no hopes of marriage or children, or even growing old, its remarkable to find that life after death carries on much as it does on earth - except every body gets younger!
The story follows how a sixteen year old copes when faced with such an overload of information and the prospects of all she has lost, obsessed with seeing her family again and getting a message to them, intertwined with building new relationships, renewing old ones (particularly charming is her grandmother, trying to teach her the ways of the other side) and dealing with the idea that you grow younger... I'd imagine its a tough thing to get your head around!
The plot, on the whole, is really well developed and the twists and events, even as simple as new people arriving, aren't overly dramatic but are well developed and fit perfectly into the story. It does, in my opinion, raise a lot of questions for you as a reader:
How would you cope and what would you do, would you spend all your days in the Observation Desk, or make the most of the bizarre situation?
It definitely makes a nice change to have something both heart-wrenching in places, and beautifully written, on a topic that was both quintisential and unique, the perspective of what happens after death was both refreshing and enjoyable, and it many ways, quite reassuring.
Zevins writing style is wonderful and perfectly suited to the story, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and it remained consistently interesting and well written, maintaining and portraying the characters in a light that was a pleasure to read and helped form a relationship with them immediately - which I feel is of ultimate importance with a book of this genre.
I do, however, think the book was quite simple to read, with fairly simple language (though I am an English Lit student, so I tend to look into these things too much) - the focus was on the heart-warming and enchanting moments, and the heart-breaking and emotional moments, but the content was not over complex - although for me it meant I got through the book quite quickly, I feel it opens it up to all ages and all levels and comprehension of reading. And despite reading it quickly, this did not hidner my enjoyment of the book!
Overall, its a beautiful - and different - story, removed from the mainstream to be consistently interesting and refreshing, and I would recommend it to anyone - particularly now as a light spring or summer read!
I read Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin about 3 months ago and the story has stayed with me ever since. It's such a poignant and thought-provoking book, that I would recommend everyone to read. It is aimed at the young adult readers, but I'm in my mid-20s and enjoyed every page.
This story is essentially about the afterlife and what lies in wait for us after we die. It tells the story of a 15-year-old girl, Liz, who is killed after a car knocks her whilst she is on her bike over and her journey from death and what follows. She finds herself on the SS Nile to ELSEWHERE aka the afterlife. I don't want to write too much about the story, I wouldn't want to take anything away from you; you have to experience this story for yourself.
The way in which Zevin writes is very matter-of-fact at times and you find yourself transported into a whole world no-one can imagine, though Zevin has done it extremely well indeed. I'm not too sure what's out there after we die, but after reading this book, I would like to believe there is a place exactly like ELSEWHERE. Beautiful!
I'm sure everybody, or at least those of you that like to read, will know the feeling of finishing a book that was so wonderful, you don't know whether to be glad you found it or sad it's over, knowing that nothing else you read for a long, long time is going to come close. This book was so completely one of those books that, despite the fact I only just finished it, is already haunting me and making me think and I know will stick with me for a long time.
The interesting thing about the book is that its subject matter has been done several times before, in books which I have also enjoyed. The Lovely Bones. The Five People You Meet in Heaven. The Brief History of the Dead. What do they all have in common? The afterlife.
I know lots of people have their own views on what happens, or doesn't, after death. Here's the thing, I really, really don't. And I'm particularly fascinated by books on the matter because I would much rather read an entertaining novel which suggests something exceedingly far-fetched but at least comforting, than listen to a psychic or TV presenter trying to make money from the dead.
Liz is killed when she's hit by a taxi whilst riding her bicycle to the mall. She's 15 years old, and wakes up aboard the SS Nile, heading towards Elsewhere (aka the afterlife). Upon arrival she begins to learn how things work there, and the bizarre backwards aging process which will see her become a baby again and be "released" back to earth to start a new life.
To begin with, Liz is understandably frustrated that she didn't get old enough to experience a lot of important rites of passage, and was only going to get younger now. She is angry at being stuck there unable to communicate with her family and friends. However, the more people she meets she begins to change her perceptions of life, loss and moving on.
Although the idea is far from a new one, I absolutely love the way the author (Gabrielle Zevin) has created the afterlife. Mostly because it can be interpreted however you want. Yes, it could be frustrating to grow down rather than up, especially if you die young (a lot of the more senior residents of Elsewhere really enjoy getting more youthful-looking by the day!), but that's just the way it is. Just like here on Earth we grow up. And once they accept that, most of the people in Elsewhere are really very happy, choosing jobs they love and making good friends. It's a nice thought that you go somewhere pleasant for a sort of retirement from life, then start over oblivious as a baby.
Despite being about death, and missing people, the book is really humorous in a subtle rather than laugh-out-loud way. Elsewhere and its residents are so charming, it made me wonder why life on earth isn't always as wonderful, as it basically consists of the same characters under different circumstances. If anything, shouldn't people get more bitter and meaner if they have had the misfortune to die?
And one of my favourite things about the book is how lovely the characters are, my favourite being Curtis Jest - a rock star idol of Liz's in life who died of an overdose and is now her friend and confidant.
But perhaps even more fun than the human characters are the canines. Without giving too much away, Liz has a gift which allows her to speak to dogs and they in turn respond throughout the book. Zevin does a wonderful job of differentiating the way they speak to the way humans talk - it feels decidedly doggy. The bouncy, lolloping retriever rushes everything out with an exclamation mark and you can just picture her wagging her tail as she says it.
I read this book in one sitting on a slow day at work, and that very night gave it to my mum and made her promise to read it soon, because I wanted someone to talk about it with. She started it on a train journey the next day and adored it so much she wanted to keep reading it rather than go to her meeting. I don't see how anyone can fail to find something they like about this book. It's the ultimate feel-good book, despite being about a grim matter.
Obviously I enjoyed this enormously, and would undoubtedly recommend it to anyone! It is suitable for young adult readers, and often reads like a book of this genre (which I actually often find better than any "adult" books out there).
Elsewhere can be bought on Amazon.co.uk in two formats - the hardback surprisingly being cheaper at £4.54.