One of the oldest questions mankind has asked is: "What happens to us after we die?" Different cultures throughout the ages have created their own gods or god to explain where Man came from and where Man will return to once lives here on Earth come to an end. The ancient Greeks believed in a gloomy underworld ruled by Hades (this is where most souls will live for all eternity) and an existence of pure bliss in Elysium for Zeus's descendants; the Egyptians believed that embalming was the only way to move on to the Fields of Yalu after death; and modern day Christians believe in one God who rules over heavens, where all righteous believers of Jesus Christ will go after Judgement Day. Though very different beliefs, they all have one thing in common: that in some form or another we live on after our earthly bodies wither and turn again to the dust of the Earth.
In Elsewhere, Gabrielle Zevin offers a beautifully creative interpretation of what the afterlife might be like. There is no presence of a God or any sort of celestial ruler, but magical elements in the novel certainly suggest that a more powerful being's handiwork has designed Elsewhere. The bodies in which mortals die remain intact, and then age backwards. When a body reaches the baby state once again, he or she is sent down a river to be born again as someone else. In Elsewhere, pets are extended this same courtesy. Elsewhere and Earth very much resemble each other, but the residents are generally much happier and without want for anything.
We first glimpse Elsewhere through the eyes of 15-year-old Liz Hall, who wants nothing more but to be back on Earth with her friends and family. Instead of moving on with her afterlife, she chooses to remain caught up in her past. Her days are spent vicariously "living" through her friends and family. As they move forward with their lives, Liz stops at nothing to make her presence known to them. Since the teenage years are often the most conflicting and rebellious years of our lives, Zevin chose rightly to cast her main character as a headstrong teenager.
Elsewhere is written in the present tense, which I did not particularly like when I first started reading this book. As I read further into Liz's story, I felt as if I were experiencing her emotions right along with her, and it began to make sense to me why Zevin chose to write it in such a manner. By the time I reached the last page, I knew Elsewhere would have a permanent place on my bookshelves.
I would encourage anyone who has wondered what will become of him- or herself after death to read Elsewhere. Though its target audience is young adults, its message will touch the hearts of both young and old.