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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Release is a coming-of-age story about a gay high school senior growing up in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. How and whether to come out to his evangelical Christian parents is a strong theme. His best friend and most of the kids at his school know and don't make an issue about it. Teens talk about sex and sexuality a lot and tell of two or three instances of having sex, both homosexual and heterosexual, with some details like mentioning penetration and ejaculation, but without being gratuitous or explicit. A spirit-world fantasy element has some violence, like using magical power to decapitate or tear limbs off. Victims are all magically healed. Real-world violence includes a strangulation described in some detail. Strong language now and then includes "s--t" and "f--k," and there's some name-calling, including "p---y" and "pr--k." An important plot element involves a couple addicted to meth. Shooting up meth, junkies, syringes, and illegal pot fields are mentioned. Teens drink beer at a party, but not to excess.
What's the story?
In RELEASE, high school senior Adam is looking forward to tonight's party, a going-away for his ex, Enzo. Adam still carries a torch for Enzo even though he's now seeing Linus, who's a much better boyfriend than Enzo ever was. Adam knows he's lucky that his super-strict, ultra-conservative parents are letting him go, and at least his best friend, Angela, will be there, too. As the day progresses, life-changing crises and memories of the past collide. Adam has a lot he needs to let go of, but will doing that bring the freedom he longs for? And that's all before he meets the ghost of a classmate who was recently murdered.
Is it any good?
Veteran author Patrick Ness gives us a thought-provoking blend of a life-changing day for relatable teen Adam with the eerie, intriguing story of a murder victim's ghost seeking answers. Teens will relate to Adam as he longs for Release from his super-strict parents' rules and from his frustration at having to hide an important part of who he is from them. They'll also relate to his struggles as one by one, the ties that bind him to the life he's always known come undone.
Release is best for readers who enjoy ghostly, spirit-world fantasy, too, because there's a strong dose of that interwoven into the story of a day in Adam's life. Readers who prefer to stay grounded in reality may not enjoy the fantasy interruptions as the story goes back and forth between the two elements. But for those who can go along for the ride, it'll provide a lot of food for thought about life, letting go, and how the littlest things sometimes turn out to make the biggest differences.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how sex is portrayed in Release. Does it seem realistic? Does it tell you about the characters or advance the plot? How much is too much in books, movies, and TV?
Do you react differently to fantasy violence than you do to real-world violence? Is reading about it different from seeing it on a screen? How?
Methamphetamine is a real problem in Adam's small town. Does your community have a drug problem? How does it affect your community, and what can you do about it?
- Author: Patrick Ness
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperTeen
- Publication date: September 19, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 288
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.