Honestly, the best thing this book has going for it is the uniqueness of Zevin’s portrayal of the afterlife. In this place (called Elsewhere), people age backwards until they become babies again and are sent back to Earth. During that time, people have an “avocation”, which is basically doing what they love as a kind of job. It sounds simple, I guess, but I think Elsewhere did a great job with world-building and making things understandable. Everything, mostly, made sense. (I was unsure about how the rebirth scenario accounted for population increase, but whatevs.)
Otherwise, I really only thought this book was so-so. It definitely reads at a level below the majority of YA that’s getting published lately. Both the characters and writing are fairly juvenile and simplistic. I imagine that this book would have been more of a hit with me if I was a bit younger than I am now. Definitely, I’d put this book in the children’s section of the bookstore/library. (Obviously, standard definition of YA has changed a lot since this was originally published.)
For some background, Elsewhere is about 15-year-old Liz who gets killed in a hit-and-run car accident. She arrives at the dock and is greeted by her grandmother, who’s now 34 years old (reverse aging and whatnot). While there she goes through several months of denial/depression, and then finds her avocation working with dogs. She also meets Owen, and they “fall in love”, which is really awkward and kind of instalove-y. Then (spoiler alert!) at the end, Liz does her Benjamin Button thing, turns back into a baby, goes back to Earth, and becomes an entirely different person (I assume sans her memories as Liz, though that was never explained fully). The book’s plot, as I said, isn’t too complicated or fast-paced, but it was still engaging and enjoyable for the most part. The romance did ruin things a bit for me, I must admit.
In the end, I had fun with Elsewhere. It’s not a perfect book and is maybe a bit younger than my preferred reading, but still not really bad. Zevin’s concept is interesting and definitely a change from anything I’ve read before. Really, there’s not any specific reason I can think of for people to not read this book, so…people should read it.