Title: More Than This
Author: Patrick Ness
Format: Paperback, 480 pages
Publication: May 1st 2014 by Walker Books Ltd (first published September 10th 2013)
Source: Bought from Fully Booked
Genre: Fiction—Science Fiction
Other classifications: Bullying, Depression and Mental Illness, LGBTQIA, Weird, Young Adult
A boy drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments. He dies.
Then he wakes, naked and bruised and thirsty, but alive.
How can this be? And what is this strange deserted place?
As he struggles to understand what is happening, the boy dares to hope. Might this not be the end? Might there be more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife?
I’ve never quite read anything like More Than This in a long time, if I ever read one to begin with. It’s powerfully tense and the writing is spot-on, hitting the marks in places meditative and in others deeply affecting. It continuously flips everything on its head, like, at one point, you’d think, okay that was all of the cards right? But no, Ness hacks the chair off and—bam!—you’re back to square one figuring out—with the main character—what everything means. And all this in a backdrop of family dysfunction, youthful impulse and longing, acceptance and big life questions.
“No, life didn’t always go how you thought it might.
Sometimes it didn’t make any sense at all.”
The pacing is impeccable—teasing in a way that keeps the reader engaged all the time but that is also efficient as to not be frustrating. Reading More Than This feels to me like walking in a dark tunnel, when you can just see the light seeping through a door, quite far away, quite within reach. It’s gripping through and through. There’s even this particular chapter so jarring and visceral it kept me on the edge of my seat. Literally. Ness really captures the sense of helplessness in such a palpable state it’s unsettling.
“Haven’t you ever felt like there has to be more? Like there’s more out there somewhere, just beyond your grasp, if you could only get to it…”
Now let’s talk about the characters. This isn’t my first Patrick Ness book; The Knife of Never Letting Go is. But it is a tremendously different experience for me. I don’t think I’d make the connection between the two if I didn’t know the same person wrote them. More Than This is loaded with well-written characters. Seth, the MC, is someone I identify with. He’s got issues with his family, is skeptical about things but he’s willing to risk it to be happy, to be more. Then there’s Regine with her scars and whose grittiness and own sense of humor add texture to the story. Tomasz who is at once adorable and a punch to that very word. Owen and Seth’s parents with their flaws and drama. And the whole cast of secondary characters with their moving turns. If you’ve been tuning in for a while—back from the Tumblr days—you’d be familiar that I don’t usually cry in books (and films). I get moved and teary-eyed and all that stuff, yes, but actual crying is seldom. This book, however, made me shed tears in one father-and-son scene and got me teary-eyed here and there.
“People break, I guess. Everyone.”
I picked up this title because John Green’s blurb goes “Just read it.” And today, I tell you the same.
Patrick Ness is the author of the bestselling and critically-acclaimed Chaos Walking trilogy and the prize-winning novel A Monster Calls. He has won every major prize in children’s fiction, including the Carnegie Medal twice. He lives in London.