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"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 offersa completely new story, full of imaginativedetail and memorable characters that offered a fascinating story that will stay with me for a very long time.