From the Publisher
“A work of powerful beauty. 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.” Booklist, Starred Review
“With an intriguing and well-developed premise, thoughtful characterization, and refreshing style, Zevin's poignant novel rewards readers with a view of death that celebrates the rich complexities of being alive.” The Horn Book, Starred Review
“Intriguing. Surely guides readers through the bumpy landscape of strongly delineated characters dealing with the most difficult issue that faces all of us. Provides much to think about and discuss.” School Library Journal, Starred Review
“Zevin's touch is marvelously light even as she considers profundities, easily moving among humor, wisdom and lyricism. . . . No plot synopsis can convey what a rich, wise spell this book casts.” The New York Times Book Review
“Elsewhere is a funny, fast-paced, and fascinating novel. The concept is completely out there and yet the emotions are so weirdly realistic. I loved reading the story of Liz's life (death?).” Carolyn Mackler, author of The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things and Vegan Virgin Valentine
“An unusual premise and a thoughtful treatment make Zevin's first effort at writing for young adults a success. Will captivate teens ready for a thought-provoking read. Hopeful and engaging.” Kirkus Reviews
“Funny and pensive, happy and heartbreaking. Readers from a broad range of beliefs will find this a quirky and touching exploration of the Great Beyond.” The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“Fascinating. Zevin, in her first novel for young people, bends the laws of physics and biology to create an intricately imagined world.” Publishers Weekly
“A fun and thought-provoking page-turner. Readers . . . will relish Zevin's lively imagination and her fast-moving plot. Buy this book for them.” VOYA
“Great humor and speculation, on pets as well as people.” Chicago Tribune
“Zevin presents an intriguing concept of the afterlife in her first novel for young adults.” Cleveland Plain Dealer (paperback edition review)
“A charming story about growing up, Elsewhere encourages the reader to look toward the future and to expect the unexpected.” Armchair Interviews (paperback edition)
In many ways, Elsewhere is out of this world. Within this pleasant, inviting place, so much like Earth, no one gets sick or grows old. In fact, everyone is growing younger. For 15-year-old Liz Hall, who arrives in Elsewhere after her demise, aging backward is not a happy prospect. Like any living teenager, she wants to turn 16, not 14; yearns to fall in love, not reenter infancy. Gabrielle Zevin's first teen novel about being dead offers keen insights about living.
Even readers who have strong views on what happens after death may find themselves intrigued by the fascinating world of "Elsewhere," the place 15-year-old Liz ends up after she is killed in a bicycle accident. A surreal atmosphere permeates chapter one as Liz awakens on a ship (mostly occupied by elderly people), unaware of its destination. Her situation gradually comes into focus after she arrives at the island of Elsewhere and is greeted by her grandmother, who died before Liz was born. Liz learns that the aging process works differently in this land of the dead: instead of getting older, humans (and animals) grow younger. When they reach infancy, they are sent down the River to be reborn on Earth. In other ways, Elsewhere resembles the world Liz left behind; residents work at jobs (although here, everyone has a chance to pursue an "avocation... something a person does to make his or her soul complete"), celebrate holidays and form friendships. Liz also falls in love for the first time, while her grandmother (who has progressed back to her thirties) becomes engaged to a famous rock star; and readers will likely be intrigued by the "strictly forbidden" Well. Prudently skirting the issue of God's role in Elsewhere (when she asks about God, Liz is told simply "God's there in the same way He, She, or It was before to you. Nothing has changed"), Margarettown author Zevin, in her first novel for young people, bends the laws of physics and biology to create an intricately imagined world. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Lizzie is dead. The 15-year-old was killed in a car accident on her way to the mall to meet a friend. This novel is the story of her "life" in the hereafterin Elsewhere. Loosely reminiscent of the Greek myths, the people experience time backward, growing younger until they are infants who then once again return to Earth. Lizzie is a typical teen and she cannot believe that she is dead. The "life" she finds in Elsewhere seems to be a sick joke. What difference does it make where you live or what you do when you are dead? Lizzie lives with her grandmother, a woman she never knew on Earth, and she spends her days on the Observation Deck where she can see her best friend and family as they continue to live without her. She even tries to make use of an "escape clause," which would allow her to return to Earth after one year. Her adjustment counselor finds her a job and soon she is helping the dogs who come to Elsewhere. She meets Owen, a young man who pines for the wife he left behind. Together they come to terms with their existence in Elsewhere. Lizzie is able to experience some of what she left behind on Earth with a growing realization that love transcends death and that regardless of the situation, you can make the most of the circumstances in which you find yourself. KLIATT Codes: JRecommended for junior high school students. 2005, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 288p., Ages 12 to 15.
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-This coming-of-age novel by Gabrielle Zavin (Farrar, 2005) has a unique twist. Although Liz is maturing, coping with disappointments, and controlling her anger, she is getting younger. Having been killed by a hit and run driver, she now lives in Elsewhere with the grandmother who died before she was born. After death, the residents get younger until they become babies and are reborn onto Earth again. Initially mad at the driver and sad that she will not have a boyfriend and attend the prom, Liz misses her family and is sullen and depressed. Gradually, she begins to realize that life is not so bad in the hereafter. Although written in the second person, the text and the narration by Cassandra Morris draws listeners into this new world, giving them a sense of immediacy. Morris's youthful, gentle, slightly nasal voice clearly brings out Lizzie's life and frustrations, and her tone becomes harsh to show anger. For the most part, she reads quickly, almost sprightly, but at dramatic moments she slows to heighten suspense. There is no significant voice changes to differentiate between male and female characters. An excellent choice to motivate reluctant readers or just for enjoyment.-Claudia Moore, W.T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
An unusual premise and a thoughtful treatment make Zevin's first effort at writing for young adults a success. Liz Hall is 15. She's looking forward to getting her license, enjoying helping her best friend plan for the prom and anticipating a long, full life. Her sudden death in a hit-and-run accident puts an end to her life on earth-and that's when the story begins. Zevin's creation of a believable, intriguing afterlife and her depiction of Liz's struggle to adjust to her new situation will captivate teens ready for a thought-provoking read. Love, jealousy, grief, commitment, frustration and friendship all exist "Elsewhere," making death not that different from life after all. Personal choices still make a difference and characters continue to learn and grow, despite the fact that they age backwards from the moment of their deaths. Zevin's smooth, omniscient third-person narration and matter-of-fact presentation of her imagined world carries readers along, while her deft, understated character development allows them to get to know her characters slowly and naturally. Hopeful and engaging. (Fiction. 12+)
Read an Excerpt
ELSEWHERE (chapter 1)
Elizabeth Hall wakes in a strange bed in a strange room with the strange feeling that her sheets are trying to smother her.
Liz (who is Elizabeth to her teachers; Lizzie at home, except when she's in trouble; and just plain Liz everywhere else in the world) sits up in bed, bumping her head on an unforeseen upper bunk. From above, a voice she does not recognize protests, "Aw hell!"
Liz peers into the top bunk, where a girl she has never seen before is sleeping, or at least trying to. The sleeping girl, who is near Liz's own age, wears a white nightgown and has long dark hair arranged in a thatch of intricately beaded braids. To Liz, she looks like a queen.
"Excuse me," Liz asks, "but would you happen to know where we are?"
The girl yawns and rubs the sleep out of her eyes. She glances from Liz to the ceiling to the floor to the window and then to Liz again. She touches her braids and sighs. "On a boat," she answers, stifling another yawn.
"What do you mean 'on a boat'?"
"There's water, lots and lots of it. Just look out the window," she replies before cocooning herself in the bedclothes. "Of course, you might have thought to do that without waking me."
"Sorry," Liz whispers.
Liz looks out the porthole that is parallel to her bed. Sure enough, she sees hundreds of miles of early-morning darkness and ocean in all directions, blanketed by a healthy coating of fog. If she squints, Liz can make out a boardwalk. There, she sees the forms of her parents and her little brother, Alvy. Ghostly and becoming smaller by the second, her father is crying and her mother is holding him. Despite the apparent distance, Alvy seems to be looking at Liz and waving. Ten seconds later, the fog swallows her family entirely.
Liz lies back in bed. Even though she feels remarkably awake, she knows she is dreaming, for several reasons: one, there is no earthly way she would be on a boat when she is supposed to be finishing tenth grade; two, if this is a vacation, her parents and Alvy, unfortunately, should be with her; and three, only in dreams can you see things you shouldn't see, like your family on a boardwalk from hundreds of miles away. Just as Liz reaches four, she decides to get out of bed. What a waste, she thinks, to spend one's dreams asleep.
Not wanting to further disturb the sleeping girl, Liz tiptoes across the room toward the bureau. The telltale sign that she is, indeed, at sea comes from the furniture: it is bolted to the floor. While she does not find the room unpleasant, Liz thinks it feels lonely and sad, as if many people had passed through it but none had decided to stay.
Liz opens the bureau drawers to see if they are empty. They are: not even a Bible. Although she tries to be very quiet, she loses her grip on the last drawer and it slams shut. This has the unfortunate effect of waking the sleeping girl again.
"People are sleeping here!" the girl yells.
"I'm sorry. I was just checking the drawers. In case you were wondering, they're empty," Liz apologizes, and sits on the lower bunk. "I like your hair by the way."
The girl fingers her braids. "Thanks."
"What's your name?" Liz asks.
"Thandiwe Washington, but I'm called Thandi."
Thandi yawns. "You sixteen?"
"In August," Liz replies.
"I turned sixteen in January." Thandi looks into Liz's bunk. "Liz," she says, turning the one syllable of Liz's name into a slightly southern two, Li-iz, "you mind if I ask you a personal question?"
"The thing is"--Thandi pauses--"well, are you a skinhead or something?"
"A skinhead? No, of course not." Liz raises a single eyebrow. "Why would you ask that?"
"Like, 'cause you don't have hair." Thandi points to Liz's head which is completely bald except for the earliest sprouts of light blond growth.
Liz strokes her head with her hand, enjoying the odd smoothness of it. What hair there is feels like the feathers on a newborn chick. She gets out of bed and looks at her reflection in the mirror. Liz sees a slender girl of about sixteen with very pale skin and greenish blue eyes. The girl, indeed, has no hair.
"That's strange," Liz says. In real life, Liz has long, straight blond hair that tangles easily.
"Didn't you know?" Thandi asks.
Liz considers Thandi's question. In the very back of her mind, she recalls lying on a cot in the middle of a blindingly bright room as her father shaved her head. No. Liz remembers that it wasn't her father. She thought it was her father, because it had been a man near her father's age. Liz definitely remembers crying, and hearing her mother say, "Don't worry, Lizzie, it will all grow back." No, that isn't right either. Liz hadn't cried; her mother had been the one crying. For a moment, Liz tries to remember if this episode actually happened. She decides she doesn't want to think about it any longer, so she asks Thandi, "Do you want to see what else is on the boat?"
"Why not? I'm up now." Thandi climbs down from her bunk.
"I wonder if there's a hat in here somewhere," says Liz. Even in a dream, Liz isn't sure she wants to be the freaky bald girl. She opens the closet and looks under the bed: both are as empty as the bureau.
"Don't feel bad about your hair, Liz," Thandi says gently.
"I don't. I just think it's weird," Liz says.
"Hey, I've got weird things, too." Thandi raises her canopy of braids like a theater curtain. "Ta da," she says, revealing a small but deep, still-red wound at the base of her skull.
Although the wound is less than a half inch in diameter, Liz can tell it must have been the result of an extremely serious injury.
"God, Thandi, I hope that doesn't hurt."
"It did at first; it hurt like hell, but not anymore." Thandi lowers her hair. "I think it's getting better actually."
"How did you get that?"
"Don't remember," says Thandi, rubbing the top of her head as if she could stimulate her memory with her hands. "It might have happened a long time ago, but it could have been yesterday, too, know what I mean?"
Liz nods. Although she doesn't think Thandi makes any sense, Liz sees no point in arguing with the crazy sorts of people one meets in a dream.
"We should go," Liz says.
On the way out, Thandi casts a cursory glance at herself in the mirror. "You think it matters that we're both wearing pj's?" she asks.
Liz looks at Thandi's white nightgown. Liz herself is wearing white men's-style pajamas. "Why would it matter?" Liz asks, thinking it far worse to be bald than underdressed. "Besides, Thandi, what else do you wear while you're dreaming?" Liz places her hand on the doorknob. Someone somewhere once told Liz that she must never, under any circumstances, open a door in a dream. Since Liz can't remember who the person was or why all doors must remain closed, she decides to ignore the advice.
ELSEWHERE. Copyright 2005 by Gabrielle Zevin.