“Haven’t you ever felt like there has to be more? Like there’s more out there somewhere, just beyond your grasp, and if you could only get to it?”
(This un-attributed quote is on the first page of the book)
Patrick Ness is one of the most ground-breaking authors in Young Adult literature. He pushes taboo issues into his work and never talks down to his readers either in language, concept or style. More Than This is another cacophony of concept and style. The first part (the book is split into four parts), is one of the best sections of fiction that exists. More Than This disperses story points in irregular, unpredictable spurts which makes it a thrilling read and a challenge to create a spoil-proof synopsis of.
“This place looks like a version of his childhood home stuck in time, but that doesn’t mean it’s actually the same place.”
At its simplest this is the story of a seventeen-year-old boy, Seth, who dies in the first pages of the book. We’re then transported with him to an alternate reality which may be heaven, hell or reality. In part one of the book we’re living his past as well as experiencing his present life in an apocalyptic reproduction of the village that he grew up in. Pieces of his life are revealed through his dreams, which he experiences so realistically he is shaken upon waking. He re-lives word-for-word moments of meaningful conversations. The dreams explain why and how he died, his family dynamics and how they impacted his life choices. This section of the book is pure magic and brilliance. It begs to be read multiple times to sort through the clues and questions that thread throughout the book.
As the story continues we’re introduced to two more characters, the fully realized mother figure, Regine, and a Polish stereo-type, the young boy Tomasz. Together the three kids attempt to understand where they’re living and why they’re there. They scavenge for food and supplies in the abandoned wasteland of a town where they‘re stranded. The only living “person” they come across is a mysterious driver. He rides in a black van, carrying a death wand and is constantly on the prowl to capture them.
“If there really is more to life, I want to live all of it. And why shouldn’t all of us? Don’t we deserve that?”
Part of the concept that Ness presents is that people are so tied to and engrossed in digital/cyber lives that they spend less and less time in their real life. It gets to the point that people agree to basically suspend their real lives and live in an eternal cyber state. Fascinating concept and again, without wanting to give away the delicious details of the books secrets, it could open up for fascinating discussion. The high concept and twisting storyline may be a bit much for some young readers who either aren’t accustomed to working for their story or who are simply lazy readers BUT, this may be the read to burst through for kids on the edge of becoming better readers. It is so compelling and the short, crisp chapters make for an addictive read. After reading the book one feels a sense of accomplishment, has some enlightened ideas and perhaps new opinions on life, death, the computer age, crime, homosexuality and myriad of other topics touched on in this colossal new novel.