Saturday, August 18, 2007
Elsewhere, by Gabrielle Zevin.
Liz Hall is fifteen years old when she is hit by a taxi cab and dies. Like most of the recently deceased, she is sent on a boat to Elsewhere, where people age backwards until they are babies and are sent back to Earth. She must deal with her feelings of loss over a life cut short and struggles with whether she should return to Earth early (it's an option given only to youth under the age of 16; instead of aging backwards Liz can opt to return to Earth as a baby immediately). She quickly falls into a deep depression and becomes obsessed with watching her friends and family from special viewing stations. Despite the strict rules against it, Liz also plots to communicate with her family in a dangerous plan that, if it fails, could mean her remaining years in Elsewhere are horrible.
In Elsewhere, Liz has the opportunity to meet and live with the grandmother she never knew, learn how to drive, and form her first romantic relationship. She also gets her first job (as a counselor for the Division of Domestic Animals, Liz utilizes her previously unknown ability to speak "Canine" to greet new dog arrivals and place them in homes). Even though Liz begins to age backwards from her first day in Elsewhere, in another respect she grows up very quickly as she begins to come to terms with her new reality. This is Zevin's first novel for young adults, and she beautifully presents Liz's initial emotional turmoil and eventual journey towards acceptance. At times the book is sad, amusing, sweet and even profound. Highly recommended for readers in high school.