More Than This by Patrick Ness
Author: Patrick Ness Website|Twitter
Published: 5 September 2013 (Walker)
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Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
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. . . .
I'm a huge fan of Patrick Ness having loved A Monster Calls and his Chaos Walking trilogy, so I simply had to get my hands on a copy of his latest YA novel. More Than This follows Seth after he wakes up in an abandoned town, a place he used to live as a child, not knowing why he is there or what exactly is happening.
This book is going to be incredibly hard to review because the fact Seth has no idea what is happening in this strange world he wakes up in is central to the plot. The first 50% of the book is shrouded in doubt and mystery. You don't even discover Seth's name until very late on so those opening chapters where this boy is nameless and has no identity were really intriguing. That first half of the book was probably the most gripping because I was completely swept along with Seth. It's a real survival tale and it really is quite chilling and terrifying as he tries to adapt to his new surroundings. It's written in first person present tense which I think made the story even more engaging because you live every moment with him. He's also completely on his own which I think added to that chilling atmosphere. It really proved how powerful the story was because I wasn't bothered by the absence of other characters.
As well as following Seth's present situation, you also get chapters which are flashbacks of what happened before Seth woke up. The flashback/memory chapters are written in italics which makes it easy to follow. I loved the detailed back story and how you get to see what happened to Seth through his eyes rather than just hear about it or have it explained. There are some incredibly touching moments in those flashbacks that were really emotional. I literally can't say anything without spoiling it but Ness has managed to capture some really beautiful scenes with some wonderful characters in a way that really moved me. The central relationship between Seth and a fellow character was one of my favourite things about the book.
The second half of More Than This is when you start to discover just what is happening and there were so many things that took me by surprise. The ideas and concepts in this novel were just brilliant and terrifying at the same time. The beginning of the book feels very hard to define genre wise, but it takes a real sci-fi twist in the later stages which I thoroughly enjoyed. There are also more characters introduced. I won't say much about them, but I think what was brilliant was that you got a complete mix of people who probably would never have come together if they hadn't found themselves in this odd situation. Everyone is so different yet they make this connection with each other through necessity. They're relying on each other to survive and that really pulls them together.
The writing was stunning, although having read Ness' previous books this was in no way a surprise. I loved discovering how the title tied into the story telling and how there was always this idea of something more. The balance between past and present was perfect and kept the pace of the book moving quickly. The atmosphere throughout the book was always full of suspense. I don't think I've read a dystopian that had quite as much creep factor as More Than This!
With a book where the mystery is a huge part, it's very hard for me to decide how that affects my enjoyment. Is wanting to know more a good thing or a bad thing?! A lot of it was probably done intentionally but then there were moments I just wish I could discover more about. I was dying to know more about the Driver, for example. I think I had a few niggles (like a moment where Seth spots a newspaper which is just an observation, but all I could think was"go and read it! It might give you clues as to what is happening!") and the fact that rediscovered memories came into play at a convenient time, but overall I thought the ideas and brilliance of the world and the concept outweighed those niggles.
This is still a book I would highly recommend. It had me gripped to the pages and stirred up all kinds of emotions whilst reading it. It really stands out from the crowd and, because of that, I think it will have a very wide appeal. I don't know if my review has done it any justice at all because going into this book with the least knowledge of what happens is the best way to get the maximum enjoyment from it. That's certainly how I felt when I got to the reveals. Basically, just go and read it.
Books like this: Fearsome Dreamer by Laure Eve, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness