Monday, October 21, 2013

More Than This by Patrick Ness

From two-time Carnegie Medal winner Patrick Ness comes an enthralling and provocative new novel chronicling the life — or perhaps afterlife — of a teen trapped in a crumbling, abandoned world.

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. . . .


Released: September 10th 2013           Pages: 480
Publisher: Candlewick Press               Source: Library

 Before this, I read four other Patrick Ness books.  Three of them grabbed hold of me, showing me something amazing while also shaking me back and forth and making me question...well, everything.  Then they dropped me back to the ground, leaving me to somehow deal with my feelings. 

Fine, I thought.  I'll read More Than This, but this time, I'll be prepared for whatever Patrick Ness has in store for me.  I'm ready this time.

I was not ready.

 This book is impossible to describe.  If I were to try to squeeze this book into nice, even boxes of genre, or even structure, I wouldn't be doing it justice.  I can hardly even gather my own thoughts about it.  Every time I try, my brain just turns into a big confused mass of sadness, elation, admiration, ASDFLKJLK;, and FEELS.  Trying to explain this book is like trying to use only a crayon and the vowels to explain quantum physics.  Words fail me, which is ironic, given that it is Patrick Ness's words that did this to me in the first place. 

But I'm going to try my best to articulate myself about it anyway.

Where the Chaos Walking trilogy is all raw, rough edges grating up against everything you thought you believed, More Than This is so fluid that it edges its way into your emotions without you realizing it until after it happens.  It shocked me, yes, but it also snuck up and affected me in more subtle ways than I'll ever be able to quantify. 

More Than This begins as a survival story of sorts, of a boy who finds himself in an alternate reality--or afterlife--and must try to make sense of it all.  And I was left as clueless as Seth.  Every time I thought I had this book figured out, it was like Patrick Ness gave a little knowing smile and said, "You just go along thinking that, Annie", all the while knowing he was going to pull the carpet out from underneath me in a few more pages.

It's about so much more than survival, though.  This book touches on some difficult themes--suicide, abuse, death, and more, all of which make it a little disturbing.  It presents all of these in an honest light.  There's another layer to Seth's drowning, another aspect that you don't realize at first, and when I figured it out, I just sat there in shock, unable to turn the page.  It questions the whole of reality, and then questions the questioning itself. 

The plot is complex in a beautiful way.  It has so many layers, and each one reveals something even deeper, something intimate about life or love or humanity.  About the characters themselves, who were as real as my feelings about this book.  Each character was raw and real and honest. 

On rare occasions, when you read a book, you come to a line where it feels like the author has specifically reached out to you, impacting you in an intensely personal way or articulating a feeling you've never been able to express until now.  Here is my experience of this:

"He's seeing the actual Milky Way streaked across the sky.  The whole of his entire galaxy, right there in front of him.  Billions and billions of stars.  Billions and billions of worlds.  All of them, all of those seemingly endless possibilities, not fictional, but real, out there, existing, right now.  There is so much more out there than just the world he knows, so much more than his tiny Washington town, so much more than even London.  Or England.  Or hell, for that matter.

So much more that he'll never see.  So much more that he'll never get to.  So much that he can only glimpse enough of to know that it's forever beyond his reach."

This.  I can't...  I'm taking an online astronomy class right now, and I had to do a lab that involved looking at the stars.  A few weeks ago, I went outside on a warm night, laid on my back on my pool deck, and stared up at the sky.  I've always been struck by the marvelous beauty of the stars, and I could look at them for hours.  But, at that moment, I was also struck by a strange sadness.  I just looked up and couldn't comprehend the fact that there just so much out in the universe that I'll never be able to see.  While it's beautiful, now I also can't help but feel sad.  Reading this was one of those moments where you can't help but wonder if the author somehow knew to reach out to you on a personal level.

Actually, everything in this book reached me on a personal level.  Not only is this book a beautifully written, masterfully plotted work of art, it's also an important book.  It's important to me, and for the world.  It dares to defy structure, and redefines fiction itself.  It makes you question existence in a way that, in my opinion, is a necessary fact of existence itself.  It also makes some profound statements about the hope of life, about how, even if you can't see it, there is always more.  This more-ness is at the heart of the book, and it's ultimately what left me filled with so much hope at the end, despite all the sadness that the characters had experienced.

"'I wanted so badly for there to be more.  I ached for there to be more than my crappy little life.'  He shakes his head.  'And there was more.  I just couldn't see it.'"

Also, as if I needed something else to prove my point, there's this:

Can your Kindle do that?  I didn't think so.

In the end, though, my thoughts boil down to this:

God bless Patrick Ness.


Similar Books: It questions existence and reality like Every Day or I Am the Messenger.  It's open-ended and up to interpretation like A Monster CallsIt deals with the idea alternate realities (and is creepy) like The Marbury Lens and its companion, Passenger.

Note: I didn't review this in my normal categorical way because this book is so unusual that I felt like that sort of review would hinder me more than help me.

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