Welcome to Elsewhere. It is usually warm with a breeze, the sun and the stars shine brightly, and the beaches are marvelous. It’s quiet and peaceful here. And you can’t get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere’s museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatric practice.
It’s where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different from it. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth.
But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen (again). She wants to get her driver’s license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. She wants to fall in love. And now that she’s dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn’t want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well.
How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward?
I really enjoyed the writing and creativity of this book, and the characters were extremely endearing, but what bothered me about it was more philosophical/theological than a wholesale criticism of the story itself. The idea of dying and going to Elsewhere kind of depressed me as I was listening to the audiobook.
The thought that we die and go to a place where you live your life in almost the exact the same way you lived on earth, only aging backwards, felt incredibly depressing. I mean, whether you believe in Heaven or not, you have to admit, most of us feel the need to believe so that we feel like there's something bigger and better waiting for us after we die. Elsewhere felt like the same old stuff, different day. Not much hope there.
I also thought that the audiobook narrator was a bit awkward. Even though the protagonist begins the story as a fifteen-year-old, the book is written in third-person omniscient point-of-view so Cassandra Morris's extremely youthful voice felt too immature for a third-person, all-seeing narrator. The voice needed to be more neutral and be skilled in creating different character voices. While Cassandra Morris might have been a good choice if this had been a first-person narrative (even then, I thought her voice sounded too young to narrate for a fifteen-year-old) but she didn't quite feel like a proper fit for the book as it is. Having said that, this was by no means the worst audiobook I've ever listened to, but it was by no means the best.
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin, narrated by Cassandra Morris
Published: January 2005 (audiobook published October 2005)
Publisher: Farrar, Stratus, and Giroux
Audiobook Publisher: Listening Library
Audiobook Length: 7 hours, 1 minute
Audience: Young Adult