Probably like 90% of other women my age, I can only remember reading about 12 pages of Forever. Those who have read it will know which pages they are. Those that haven't, ask a woman in their 30s for a brief precis. I don't know if I even actually read the rest of the novel. I really liked Judy Blume, but I didn't think Forever was her finest hour. And, even in her finest hour, she is not as powerful a writer as Ness. But I think it is great that he has acknowledged her continuing cultural legacy. She is certainly an important writer.
Release is two stories in one. I *think* the mythical, bizarre-o Dalloway-inspired bit is supposed to be a spiritual counterpoint to the harsh "folksy" religion of the parents on the main character. I think. I'm not sure, and, frankly, I sort of think the novel would have been better without it. However, it certainly doesn't detract from the huge power of the main story.
Adam is 18, and he is gay. His parents are the sort to pray the gay away, to put it mildly. The book follows Adam over just one day where he has to go to work, meet his boyfriend, help his Dad at the Church, and go to a get-together. A great deal happens on this day, including sex with his boyfriend. It is relatively explicit - it's certainly not for young children, and I would be tempted to give it a read yourself if you're unsure if your child is ready. A wants to read it, which is fine (she's 14), C also wants to read it, but when I told him it contained explicit sexual intercourse, he changed his mind. He is still squeamish about that kind of thing. He then uttered something about "porn", and was given a very long, probably very boring talking to about how writing about sex doesn't have to be porn. I am sure he was very grateful for this.
I cannot really overstate how great this book is. I hope it becomes famous in the way that Forever became famous, but I hope teens read the whole book, rather than just the sex bit. There is so much that's brilliant about how relationships alter in your teens, not just with romantic partners, but with friends, and family. The main character's best friend who, if I'm going to criticise any of the characters, is slightly irritatingly perfect, says at one point "They're your parents. They're meant to love you because. Never in spite." A powerful message for us all, I think.