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More Than This

Here is the boy, drowning. In these last moments, it’s not the water that’s finally done for him; it’s the cold. 

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. . .”

The only other Patrick Ness book I’ve read is A Monster Calls, and I did like it (although I didn’t love it). More Than This, however, was simply mindblowing. To be honest, I’m still not quite sure what to make of it, and have a feeling that this review will be rather discombobulated. It did not help that Blogger deleted half of my review as I was typing it.

Anyway, I really was sucked into this terrifying and disturbing novel as soon as I began to read. It feels so real and immediate, and the pace is so fast-paced, making for a really intense novel. One can almost feel the characters’ pain, whether it’s physical or emotional. The very first scene, that of the drowning, is one example of the physical pain; it was quite difficult to read, as was the subsequent awakening, and Seth discovering that he’s still alive, albeit in a really strange world. 

Those who think young adult fiction is all junky should read this book. I’m not saying it’s great or that it’ll be remembered necessarily (although you know never know), but More Than This is still really intelligent, and it certainly purports to be something more than mindless entertainment. It’s edgy and provocative, and it left me pondering when I wasn’t reading it and after I’d finished it. Just when you think you know what’s going on, everything changes, the world is turned upside down again. Patrick Ness plays with certain genres of apocalyptic fiction and dystopia that are way overused in YA and tweaks them, tries to do something new. The result is a scary, absorbing, and brilliant novel.

As I said, More Than This was really frightening, at least to me. I don’t particularly enjoy reading scary books, and this was borderline, but I enjoyed nonetheless. It just sucked me in. The scary part is really how unknown everything is to Seth, this strange place that he wakes up in. Also, almost every section brings new revelations, spine-tingling ones. Both the physical and the emotional are frightening in this book, from the opening with Seth drowning to all the terrible things that happened to him.

More Than This is also really strange and hard to comprehend. There are like two different worlds, but you’re never sure which one is “real” or if any of them are real at all. Ness takes the typical apocalyptic-dystopia set-up, with humans relying more and more on technology, and the real world a doomed wasteland, and turns it sideways, changing little things here and there. 

The book is also really grim; both Seth’s recollections and the place he’s in now are pretty bleak. There are flashes of dark humor now and then, but that’s about it. 

I didn’t love the ending; it felt a little too ambiguous, and although it was clever, I would have liked something more. Overall, though, I ended up really enjoying this creepy and absorbing novel. I wasn’t expecting it to be so intense, that’s for sure. I received a review copy from Candlewick, and I’m so glad that I requested it. 

472 pages.

Rating: ****

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