More Than This by Patrick Ness
Release Date: September 10th, 2013
Publisher: Candlewick Press
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. . . .
At one point while reading Patrick Ness’s newest YA novel, I was trying to figure out when the last time a book confused me, moved me and made me think as much as More Than This did, and then it dawned on me: It was (of course) Ness’s previous masterpiece, the Chaos Walking trilogy. Fans of Ness’ ability to write immersive, compelling, funny and tragic stories will devour his newest book, a great addition to his collection of stories that mindfuck the hell out of you (and leave you thankful for it).
It’s hard to talk about this book’s plot too much without delving into major, twisty-turny spoilers, but suffice to say our hero, Seth, very vividly drowns in a horrific death only to find himself awake and back in his old childhood home, seemingly completely and utterly alone in the world. From there, Seth’s journey to discovering where he ended up is interspersed with flashbacks to his life before his death.
Both stories are fascinating and Seth is a compelling protagonist, a well-rounded and emotionally vulnerable teenager coming of age amidst family tragedy and peer pressure and then finding himself – after his own death, no less – in even more dire situations. His romantic entanglements and relationships with his friends, especially, feel fresh and engaging and manage to shine a light on teenage relationships that not very many other YA novels have been able to. And oh yes, there are twists, ones that feel obvious or slight and ones that knock you over and make you rethink everything you thought you knew, and they keep coming one after the other.
Best of all, as always, Ness asks Big Questions of his readers, and doesn’t offer any concrete answers. The work is all the better for it, elevating it beyond just an exciting, action-filled read (which it also is). While Chaos Walking dealt with very complicated issues of war and good vs evil, the very nature of reality and existence, and one’s sense of self, is questioned here. Oh, is that all?