More Than This by Patrick Ness
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 have absolutely no idea what to write in this review. On one hand, I'm awed by More Than This, but on the other, I'm really disappointed by it. More Than This was a mind game of a book, and I loved that it's so incredibly not a variation on five hundred other books.
The book probably didn't need to be 470 pages long, but I was intrigued by Seth's discoveries and there was a good amount of action, so I wasn't bored. Even when nothing much was happening, in the first part of the book, there was enough mystery to be interesting. The setting was fascinating all by itself, and Seth was a great character. All of the characters were truly great. They were believable and interesting and they had developed background stories. I really loved that when Seth tells Regine and Tomazs that he's gay, they don't make a huge deal out of it and just go on trying to survive. I liked the conflict of the story, their efforts to stay alive and figure out what had happened to them. I liked the "villain." I even liked the philosophy behind the book, even though it got pretty confusing at times. I liked the thought that there's more.
So why do I feel so let down by this book?
The best reason I can come up with is that it's so damn confusing. To a point, I liked that there was an air of mystery around everything that happened in the book, but that should have been resolved in the end. I would've been okay with an ambiguous ending, but we should have been offered undeniable proof of what that abandoned, decayed world was. There was a whole lot of evidence suggesting Regine was right, but Ness kept planting seeds of doubt that maybe, just maybe, Seth really was making it all up. (I realize this paragraph is probably confusing for people who haven't read the book, but I don't want to spoil anything).
I understand that was sort of the point and whether or not the world was real didn't matter. In the beginning, that was part of what kept the book interesting. But towards the end, those seeds of doubt started to feel a little forced. There was so much evidence against the theory that it wasn't all real, I think I would have liked the book more if Ness had just said, yes, this abandoned world is real and moved on. I have no doubt that more philosophic minds than mine will appreciate the uncertainty, but to me, it felt like Ness was trying too hard to tell us that it didn't matter.
Here I am at the end of the review, and I still don't know what to rate it. Ness' writing style was haunting and well done. The characters were great, the plot was interesting. But I didn't like how it was carried out, or how the book ended. I feel like everything wrong with this book is such a matter of opinion, I can't accurately rate it. With that in mind, I'm giving More Than This three stars because, while I don't think it's average, I also didn't like it enough to rate it higher. It was very, very good, but it was missing something.
Once Upon a Time...
As a longtime lover of stories and a believer in the power and magic of books, I've spent my life seeking out the best reads. This blog is dedicated to reviewing the books I read - good, bad, or magnificent - to help other readers find their next favorite books.