Candlewick Press, 2013.
Hardcover 472 pages in 4 parts
More Than This is hard to talk about without giving too much away. I can’t even ‘tag’ the post w/ a genre as it would prove too suggestive. So I will do my best to keep this spoiler-free because it is a phenomenal book.
You can know that Patrick Ness’ More Than This is the story of a young man Seth who has violently drowned off the Washington state coastline and wakes up on the front walk of his childhood home back in England. The village appears abandoned, weeds grown up, few wildlife, no electricity, years of dust and decay. It is a place that his family had left behind when he was eight but it has always haunted them. The atmosphere is apocalyptic and it only gets more bizarre.
More Than This is a mystery novel as the events leading up to his death are slow to unfold and where he wakes and why is the work of the novel. Both lines of inquiry come together in the end, and both circle the titular longing.
“Worse, it had been accompanied by an equally hard lifelong yearning, a feeling that there had to be more, more than just all this weight.
“Because if there wasn’t, what was the point?” (132)
You should know that Patrick Ness writes one of the most tender and precious of love stories. One of the most exciting selling points of this novel is how much it works to diverge from the usual Teen fare. I think he expresses the depth of feeling many try to do without explicit sexual encounters better than anyone I’ve read of Teen fiction thus far. He impresses me further in separating romantic sentiment from the sexual act later on.
There is also a lot of heartbreak. More Than This is difficult, and not only on a reader’s patience (Ness is unhurried). Ness deals in difficult subject matters. Skimming goodreads reviews, I saw mentioned more than once that this was an “important book.” To be honest I crinkled my nose at that. Now I owe some apologies. The final chapters are too sincere to be message-y as the journey realizes many of the sentiments before Seth shares what he’s come to learn. There are things young people should know (and heck, older readers could be reminded of), a perspective to consider.
More Than This has some heady-stuff, but Ness proves just as adept at action. There are some crazy chase scenes and a pretty terrifying predator. And the characters are marvelous. I would say more, but, again, I do not want to give too much away. Spared the first person narrator—how refreshing—the third limited observes a well-grounded protagonist. He is wonderfully normal and I especially dig the way his skepticism plays out after waking.
“It’s the kind of story—“
He stops again.
It’s the kind of story where everything’s explained by one big secret…” (237)
Or is it? Seth offers a lot of speculation as to what and how this new place works. Ness doesn’t try to hide the likely reader responses to the events at hand. He’s conscious of tropes, of popular stories and he works with them—and around them. What to believe and questions of where this is all going belong not only to Seth…and seriously, just how horrifying will it get?
This isn’t a novel you escape into. There is too much real life, too many ghosts. But Patrick Ness is brilliant, you should know that—you can expect that, but suspend yourself of anything else as Ness’ work is pushing against your usual Teenage fare, asking the question and understanding that there is more than this.
recommendations… boys & girls, 14 & up, who want to challenge some of the formulaic in young people fiction, who read literature, not just popular fiction, but for readers of popular works as well; for those who like good writing, are patient, and/or like puzzles. For those who like to experience love, humor, sadness, incredulity, anger, and human folly in a single novel; for those who’ve ever wondered if there was more than this—whatever the “this” is.
of note… find someone(s) to read this with.
though it is a 2013 read: the concenter-quality: a significant deuteragonist; lgbt