Book Review: Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Title: Elsewhere

Author: Gabrielle Zevin

Genre: YA Fantasy

Number of Pages: 277

Rating: B-

Recommended?: Yes

There were a lot of individual things I liked about this book but as a whole it didn’t quite work for me. Elsewhere is a novel about a teenage girl in the afterlife (not nearly as dark as something like The Lovely Bones) and her struggle to adjust to being dead and being separated from her family and friends.

Liz is fifteen years old when she is hit by a car while crossing the street and goes to ‘Elsewhere,’ a sleepy and peaceful place where the dead age backward until they’re ready to be reincarnated as babies. She moves in with her grandmother and at first she’s obsessed with watching her family, but finally she begins to settle into her new ‘life’ and to enjoy the pleasures Elsewhere has to provide.

She discovers she can talk to dogs and gets a job introducing dead pets to the afterlife. She even falls in love, but I think her relationship with her new boyfriend Owen is one of this book’s biggest weaknesses. You see, because of the reverse-aging process Owen is seventeen but he died when he was in his late 20’s. Which means we have a guy who’s emotionally in his late 20’s dating a 15-year-old girl.

It’s creepy and the whole idea of dead people aging backward is potentially open to all kinds of pedophilic situations. I enjoyed the idea of Elsewhere but there were also a lot of problems with the way it’s portrayed. For example, the idea that an afterlife would still revolve around capitalism (people buy things and pay money to observe their loved ones) is just weird. It’s a little too… earthlike? Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the stuff (like being able to talk to dogs) is awesome but some of it also seems really unappealing.

I really don’t like the idea of reincarnation. If you can’t keep the wisdom and experience you gained from your last life, what’s the point? To me, when Liz gets reincarnated she ceases to be the same person, and the journey doesn’t seem to matter so much when she doesn’t remember any of it. Some of the ideas in this book are really good, and I did enjoy reading it. I liked how the author put a very different spin on the whole ‘life after death’ concept. Some of its quirkiness reminded me of Meg Rosoff’s YA books, so if you like her you might like this too. If you read it, be sure to tell me what you think!

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