Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin | Book Review

"Elsewhere" by Gabrielle Zevin book cover

Elsewhere is a YA novel about Liz, a fifteen-year-old who is killed in a hit-and-run accident and finds herself on a boat to Elsewhere – the afterlife. There, she learns that dead folk begin to age backwards until they become babies once again, at which point they’re sent back to Earth to start brand new lives.

I love the afterlife setting in Elsewhere. It has a lovely, whimsical and peaceful atmosphere, which is exactly what any of us could hope for when thinking about what awaits us in death. When we end up in Elsewhere, we get to choose an avocation (a job we love rather than one we have to do), we can reconnect with long lost relatives and friends that died before us, and we can even check in with the folks still left on Earth via magic binoculars. Oh, and a lot of people speak Canine, which means there are talking dogs. Talking. Dogs. Need I say any more?

But it isn’t all perfect in Elsewhere. Despite the enchanting concept of the afterlife, Zevin doesn’t shy away from the fact that death and grief are tough experiences to go through. She explored the heartbreak of death in a sensitive way, showing us how difficult it is to lose someone you love, and even harder when that someone is relatively young. At the same time, the story is incredibly uplifting and hopeful; it plants the seed in our mind that life doesn’t end with death.

Although Elsewhere is a young adult novel, I did feel that the language was a little simplistic at times and this gave it more of a middle grade vibe. I suppose the themes of death are perhaps more suited to teen readers, but I think mature middle grade kids would adore Elsewhere just as much. I could certainly see myself reading it when I was around 10 years old and getting as much pleasure out of it then as I have now.

This is going down on my list of Books That Really Stuck With Me, if such a list exists. It’s just such an imaginative, cosy, and uplifting read – I adored it.

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