"review" · concenter · fiction · Lit · mystery · recommend · wondermous · young adult lit

{book} there is more than this

more than this coverMore Than This by Patrick Ness

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

"review" · fiction · horror/scary · juvenile lit · Lit · recommend · Tales · wondermous · young adult lit

{book} a monster calls

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd

Illustrated by Jim Kay

Candlewick Press, 2011.

hardcover, 206 pages (ages 12+)

I had been warned and still I read it before bed. I had been warned that hankies would come in handier than a well-lit room. That terror subsides for grief, and not just thematically.

While A Monster Calls is not what one would expect as a traditional R.eader’s I.mbibing P.eril (RIP) read it is perfect for autumn into winter. It has the ingredients of a RIP read: a monster does call, more than one actually, and there are nightmares, death, murder, witches, bleeding, and creepy tales… and there is an unnamed terror that when it comes to light you understand its horror, how it tormented the hero, how that monster could be more terrifying than the one inhabiting the yew tree. It’s just not chilling in the usual way, nor thrilling in any way other than the kind we find in a really well-crafted story. But it is one you shouldn’t stay up with while everyone has long since fallen asleep and all the lights but yours are out.

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting– he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd– whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself– Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.—publisher’s synopsis.

A Monster Calls is a thin volume and heavier than it looks, paper and pages weighted for gorgeous illustrations by Jim Kay. Patrick Ness doesn’t need any more words than he’s found the spin truly impressive tale of a boy dealing with his single mother’s illness. Conor’s father has a new family in the U.S., his maternal grandmother is hard, there are bullies at school, concerned teachers, an ex-close friend, and a monster who keeps showing up to have a talk with him—but then, of all the people who would “have a talk” this monster is the most relentless—nearly as relentless as the other monster.

The monster who walks, who comes to call is ancient and wild. He has many names (34) and can take many forms but he prefers the yew tree (a very complicated symbol). The monster finds stories to be powerful and as wild as he and he wants to hear Conor’s story. Conor is not keen on the idea, but he bides his time as the monster wants to share three tales of his own first. The tales are exquisite and their outcomes baffle Conor. As they find correlation with the things going on at home and school, Conor’s life adds further consideration to the tales—and deepen the mystery surrounding Conor’s repetitive nightmare.

There is an aspect to the story that brought to mind Adam Haslett’s short story “The Beginnings of Grief,” it is where Conor seeks out punishment, not actively per se, but he actually looks forward to blows from the school bullies. He wants to see justice mete out in the tales, the more destructive the better. But he seems immune from punishment from others (and eventually all), who always counter with: “What purpose could that possibly serve?” The question follows the Monster’s tales as well.   A Monster Calls and its tale(s) talks also about power, isolation, (in)visibility, belief and guilt—and to what end? That is what Conor wants to know and what he is not sure is possible or even deserved.

Much of the pleasure of the read is not only the clever weaving of this tale, but the characters who populate it–the Monster and Conor foremost. For all the weight they give the story, the characters drive the action that buoys the story pursuing it with mounting dread–and increasing relief. The more out of control things seem to spiral the greater the optimism that it will all soon be over, one way or another.

I know I have not done my best with this review as I really hope anyone and everyone would read it, at least once. It has the dark and the mischief and the raging that is so extraordinary to experience in Patrick Ness’ writing.


recommendations: 12 & up, boys and girls, and not necessarily only someone experienced with or experiencing grief, fans of David Almond as he came to mind with this one; those who love tales.

A RIP VII read

{those loverly dark images belong to Jim Kay}