More Than This by Patrick Ness.
Page Count: 472.
Published: September 10, 2013.
Published by: Candlewick Press.
Source: Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
From two-time Carnegie Medal winner Patrick Ness comes an enthralling and provocative new novel chronicling the life — or perhaps afterlife — of a teen trapped in a crumbling, abandoned world.
A boy named Seth drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying, his bones breaking, his skull dashed upon the rocks. So how is he here? And where is this place? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighborhood around his old house is overgrown, covered in dust, and completely abandoned. What’s going on? And why is it that whenever he closes his eyes, he falls prey to vivid, agonizing memories that seem more real than the world around him? Seth begins a search for answers, hoping that he might not be alone, that this might not be the hell he fears it to be, that there might be more than just this. . . .
Books are experienced differently by each person as everyone brings their own background, beliefs and history to the reading experience. Although this is something that happens with every book, I believe More Than This will be an especially unique experience for every reader that picks it up because of the way Ness ventures into the unknown of life, death, and what comes after. I don't want to give much away because I want everyone to have the chance to go into this unspoiled like I did, but I will say one thing: I was enthralled.
Going into this, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I knew that I was a fan of Patrick Ness and the way he tells stories, but that was about it. But as much as I didn't know what to expect from the plot, what I got was definitely not what I would have guessed had you asked me to. More Than This is wildly original, thought-provoking, and took turns I never could have anticipated. Told through present narration with the occasional heart-wrenching flashback, More Than This really examines how we live our lives and what we expect from death.
When Seth wakes up after drowning, he knows he has died. What he doesn't know is why he wakes up, or why he ends up where he does. As readers, we don't know that either. As we are fully immersed in Seth's head, we learn as he learns, or, in the case of his background, as he relives. This slow reveal of information makes for a story that I just didn't want to leave because I always had more questions that needed answering. It was addictive in that I was constantly wanting new information or begging for more emotional flashbacks, which were some of my favourite scenes in the book. Over the course of the novel, again without my revealing much here to spoil, Ness really delves into human relationships and the power they can have in our lives. It was a thoughtful and touching exploration that I'm sure will stick with me for a long time.
Ness' writing in More Than This is, as I have come to expect from him, a uniquely captivating style in which he brings the bleakest of landscapes to life in your mind and slowly brings you around to see the big picture in the story. What I find so impressive is how he doles out so little information at a time but keeps you reading until your heart is tattered and your head is racing and you're putting it all together realizing that he has an incredibly creative mind. I'll admit that there were moments I felt lost and struggled a bit to adjust my frame of mind to where Ness was going with the story, but as I read on I was usually able to realign with the story and continue enjoying it.
I know my lack of plot recap may cause some hesitation but I promise you: go in knowing almost nothing about what happens, allow yourself to be immersed in Seth's narration and confusion and pain, and you will hopefully come out with a sense of wonder and possibly a new way of considering life. At the very least, it is a smart and unexpected read that will play with your brain just enough to get you thinking. While I still had questions after turning the final page, I think that was part of Ness' hope; that our speculation wouldn't end where his story does. I was thoroughly impressed by what an intelligent and creative book this is and it cemented Ness' spot on my list of top authors.