Imagine waking up in a strange place with no recollection of how you got there. What if that place were a ship heading to an unknown port, and everyone aboard is a stranger? Now imagine that you are told that you are dead and the ship is on its way to some form of the afterlife. Liz Hall has found herself in Elsewhere, rooming with the grandmother she never met and facing the prospect of never becoming an adult. Instead, she will age backwards until she is reborn. Depressed and confused, she watches life on Earth obsessively and distances herself from her new friends and family. In an attempt to contact the living, Liz makes a friend in Owen Welles after he arrests her for breaking the laws of Elsewhere. As the two of them fall in love, Liz finds that living in Elsewhere is not all bad. She finds a calling working with newly departed animals and connects with her grandmother. Eventually she is faced with a threat to her timid happiness as Owen’s wife arrives in Elsewhere. In an attempt to protect herself from heartbreak, Liz attempts to return to Earth, but is nearly lost forever in the process. Luckily she finds the strength within herself to make her way to safety and to Owen, and as she heals, the two rekindle their relationship and Liz makes peace with her fate. Happily the two grow young together until Liz is ready to be sent back to Earth and be born.
The concept of the novel is interesting and should appeal to teens of both genders. Zevin’s attempt to create a circular story is somewhat lacking, however. At times it seems both too long and heavy handed. Honestly, there were at least two points in the novel that made excellent stopping points and I was surprised when the audiobook continued. More importantly, Liz seems more self-pitying and whiney than dynamic and relatable. I found myself frustrated with her childishness. However, she does have moments of rare grace when she seems to see beyond herself and really recognize the impact of her death on her family. The plot, however, follows a predictable formula that overshadows the interesting subject matter. In truth, I think the book might have made a more interesting series. For example, I liked the subplot concerning Liz’s hunt and eventual forgiveness of her killer, but I felt that it was almost an afterthought. In addition, Liz is very upset that her best friend did not attend her funeral but the reader never gets more information. Both issues could have been more fully developed. At any rate, teenage girls will enjoy the romance and teenage boys will find the concept of Elsewhere interesting.
Despite all of this, Cassandra Morris does an excellent job narrating the novel. Her voice is both childlike and emotive without seeming overdone. Though she makes few efforts to modify her voice, it is clear when different characters are speaking. Her conversational style makes the work approachable, especially for teens. The narration is definitely a high point in an otherwise disappointing work.