While Released doesn’t stray too far from the standard young adult paranormal fare, atypical worldbuilding and a frank, capable narrator made this a truly enjoyable read. The opening scenes introduce a situation that we’ve seen time and again in the genre: some terrible supernatural catastrophe has befallen residents of a town where the survivors are left struggling to eke out an existence. Yet the ante is upped a bit when we learn that Abby, her brother Carter, and Carter’s best friend Max are the only survivors in their small town. The story kicks off after the gang has already become somewhat acclimated to their new, bleak environment, and all three have already experienced the heartache of losing loved ones. I appreciated the fact that Duncan threw readers straight into the story; no time was wasted by characters meandering through the various stages of denial, anger, and helplessness at their plight. No, Abby and the guys have worked out a system for survival, and what’s more, they have a plan to make their way to where they believe there are more survivors.
Duncan’s world, while similar to many that I’ve come across before, nonetheless stands out in her depiction of the supernatural elements. Usually, when we encounter demons in the genre, they are at least somewhat sentient, if not largely anthropomorphic. Yet Duncan’s demons are likened to hounds and birds of prey, larger than their normal counterparts and more deadly, yet altogether more like wild beasts animated by instinct rather than motive. Toward the end of the novel, Duncan alludes to the fact that this might not be a universal trait of all demons, and I have a feeling that Abby and crew will be interacting with the demons through more than just fighting in upcoming installments. Still, this feature really stood out to me while reading, and I hope that Duncan continues to deliver her worldbuilding through similar simple yet effective means.
I also quite enjoyed the romantic aspect of the novel, which, though it took up a significant portion of the book, nonetheless didn’t feel overdone or overdramatized. I’m a sucker for stories where friends acknowledge long-pent-up feelings, and Abby and Max are no exception. Their interactions were sweet, heartfelt, and didn’t incorporate unnecessary drama. More importantly, they actually served to enhance the consequences of their struggle to survive rather than hamper them, as neither falls victim to the stupidity of love-sickness at a crucial survival moment. They are able to keep their heads straight when need be, a trait that unfortunately is a rarity in much of young adult nowadays.
For those who are becoming somewhat tired of supernatural fiction, I suggest giving Released a try. It’s a good quick read that manages to use elements we’ve seen before to great effect, and I’m looking forward to reading its follow-up, Chaos.
For those who are interested, check out Megan’s blog where she’s currently hosting a giveaway for the newly-released Chaos.