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Elsewhere Hardcover – August 11, 2005

331 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 7-10–What happens when you die? Where do you go? What do you do? Zevin provides answers to these questions in this intriguing novel, centering on the death of Liz Hall, almost 16 years old and looking forward to all that lies ahead: learning to drive, helping her best friend prepare for the prom, going to college, falling in love. Killed in a hit-and-run accident, Liz struggles to understand what has happened to her, grief-stricken at all she has lost, and incapable of seeing the benefits of the Elsewhere in which she finds herself. Refusing to participate in this new life, Liz spends her time looking longingly down at the family and friends back on Earth who go on without her. But the new environment pulls her into its own rhythms. Liz meets the grandmother she never knew, makes friends, takes a job, and falls in love as she and the other inhabitants of Elsewhere age backward one year for each year that they are there. Zevin's third-person narrative calmly, but surely guides readers through the bumpy landscape of strongly delineated characters dealing with the most difficult issue that faces all of us. A quiet book that provides much to think about and discuss.–Sharon Grover, Arlington County Department of Libraries, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Narration from beyond the grave has been cropping up with some frequency in YA novels this year, including Chris Crutcher's The Sledding Hill and Adele Griffin's Where I Want to Be (both 2005). But this example, Zevin's second novel and her first for the YA audience, is a work of powerful beauty that merits judgment independent of any larger trend.

The setting is an elaborately conceived afterlife called Elsewhere, a distinctly secular island realm of surprising physical solidity (no cottony clouds or pearly gates here), where the dead exist much as they once did--except that no one dies or is born, and aging occurs in reverse, culminating when the departed are returned to Earth as infants to start the life cycle again.

Having sailed into Elsewhere's port aboard a cruise ship populated by mostly elderly passengers, 15-year-old head-trauma victim Liz Hall does not go gently into Elsewhere's endless summer. She is despairing, intractable, sullen, and understandably furious: "You mean I'll never go to college or get married or get big boobs or live on my own or get my driver's license or fall in love?" She rejects her new existence, spending endless hours keeping tabs on surviving family and friends through magical coin-operated telescopes, and refusing to take the suggestions offered by a well-meaning Office of Acclimation. Eventually, though, she begins to listen. She takes a job counseling deceased pets, forges an unexpected romance with a young man struggling with heartbreaks, and finds simple joy in the awareness that "a life is a good story . . . even a crazy, backward life like hers." Periodic visits with an increasingly youthful Liz, concluding with her journey down the "River" to be reborn, bring the novel to a graceful, seamless close.

Although the book may prove too philosophical for some, Zevin offers readers more than a gimmick-driven novel of ideas: the world of Elsewhere is too tangible for that. "A human's life is a beautiful mess," reflects Liz, and the observation is reinforced with strikingly conceived examples: a newly dead thirtysomething falls in love with Liz's grandmother, who is biologically similar in age but experientially generations older; fresh arrivals reunite with spouses long since departed, creating incongruous May-December marriages and awkward love triangles (as Liz experiences when her boyfriend's wife suddenly appears). At one poignant moment, four-year-old Liz loses the ability to read. The passage she attempts to decipher, which comes from Natalie Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting, is another meditation on the march of time and change.

Although Zevin's conception of the afterlife will inevitably ruffle many theological feathers, the comfort it offers readers grieving for lost loved ones, as well as the simple, thrilling satisfaction derived from its bold engagement with basic, provocative questions of human existence, will far outweigh any offense its metaphysical perspective might give. Far more than just a vehicle for a cosmology, this inventive novel slices right to the bone of human yearning, offering up an indelible vision of life and death as equally rich sides of the same coin. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 17 years
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 720L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st, First Edition edition (September 9, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374320918
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374320911
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (331 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #759,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gabrielle Zevin is the author of eight novels, including Elsewhere and most recently,The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, which is a New York Times Best Seller.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Karielle @ Books à la Mode on March 21, 2013
Format: Paperback
It's been a really long time since I've read a YA book with such a refreshing premise--no vampires, complicated love triangles, or anything remotely Hunger Games-esque here! Now, Elsewhere was published way before the current of "trendy" YA fiction began to flow, which stresses its originality, and its purpose on bookshelves today.

I love the take on reincarnation that's detailed--it's fascinating, imaginative, and immersed me completely from page one! Zevin is also highly accomplished at creating relatable, completely memorable characters. The limited third-person point of view makes Liz rather distant, but she's still easy to appreciate. She's as neurotic and elaborate as any adolescent is: impressively mature at times, but frustratingly childish at others. I feel she's a bit naïve for a nearly-sixteen-year-old; don't get me wrong: her characterization is amazing, but her superficial portrayal is a little contradicting at times. As a teenage girl, though, she is perfectly accurate. Zevin couldn't have depicted the conflicting feelings and angsts of the modern teenager any better.

Elsewhere is a feel-good novel that keeps you tense and uneasy while reading, but leaves you both breathless and sighing in relief by the turn of the last page. It offers brilliant perspective on experiencing things to the fullest and never underestimating those around you who love you. Through Liz's journey in Elsewhere, spending her life in reverse, I learned that life isn't measured in hours and minutes; it's the quality that matters, not the length. And we, as people, grow with those experiences, not with age.

Young adults will devour this book, and better yet, parents will approve of it because of its tasteful, positive portrayal of life's decisions and values.
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91 of 108 people found the following review helpful By Brenda*Leigh*Johnson on October 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I believe this to be

one of the best books I have ever read.

I absolutely loved this book.

Lizzie is killed in a hit and run accident and Elsewhere is the story of

her ' afterlife '. I don't wish to write any more than that because this

book is an absolute must- read. To tell more of the story would be to

spoil a book that will really challenge your beliefs and perspective

about life after death. No-one really knows what happens after death.

Each reader will bring their own personal philosophy to Zevin's story,

but what became apparent as I progressed through the book was that if

life after death was like the Elsewhere of the story, human beings would

fear death less and learn to appreciate wherever they are in their stage

of development in-life and after-life.

Zevin has taken such an everyday concept, turned it on its head and

written what can only be described as a convincing believable story

about where we go and what happens to everyone when they die.

The tone is hopeful, the prose realistic and beautiful. The ending is

utterly perfect. The story is infused with life lessons and gentle

morals without being sanctimonious in the least. In some ways I find it

hard to say all that I really feel about this book, that my words will

not do justice to the story.

Zevin has left no stone unturned. Her tale covers: what happens to

animals, how you progress to the ' afterlife,' how you make contact with

life on earth, and how you become reborn, amongst many other questions

people have about ' what happens when you die ?'.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Graham on September 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I went to the book store the other day, and I was picking and choosing my way through the YA section when this one caught my eye. Glancing at the cover, it didn't look too much different from the others on the New Reads shelf, but one glance inside and I realized how special this book is.

Right in the store, I read the first few pages, making sure it wasn't another frothy, badly written popularity-and-such book. And it wasn't. I practically threw away the book I had specifically come to buy, and spent the entire night reading this instead. As someone else has already mentioned, I started crying near the end, and continued to do so for about ten minutes afterward. This book touches a nerve somewhere deep down, where we all wonder about death, life, and love. (And in case you're wondering, I've only cried at one book before, and no movies ever, so this is a big deal) This book is unassuming at first glance, but reading it made me think about the big things that I think we all wonder about, the things that book should be about. I am pleased that somebody still knows that YA books don't have to be trashy-teen-movie style. Read this book, it's fabulous.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Angela J. Thorpe on October 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Liz Hall wakes up dead one morning. That's definitely not the way to start off the day.

At first, she thinks it's all a dream, but then she remembers being hit by a car. The realization sets in that she'll never fall in love, never get her driver's license, and never see her family again. She spends her days on the observation deck where passengers can peek into the lives of their loved ones still alive. It takes Liz's dead grandmother to show Liz that death is worth living and that it's possible to have all the things she thought she'd lost even if she's going to have to live her life backwards.

A great young adult and older story about living life (or death) to the fullest.
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