Genre: YA Sci-Fi?
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. . . .
A couple of weeks ago I was complaining about how hard it can be to review books that I love, today I'm worried about reviewing a book that really disappointed me. I'm not quite sure which one is worse.
The real trouble here comes from that fact I have a huge amount of respect for Patrick Ness. I adored the 'Chaos Walking' trilogy and A Monster Calls and I really admire his attitudes towards his audience and young people in general and although I knew little about the premise, More Than This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. Based on previous experience I expected a lot - I expected to be moved and deeply affected and I expected a book with an exciting plot and insightful character studies. I felt that the More Than This was trying for all that but it missed by a mile.
The book isn't bad - there was nothing that left me shaking my head or made me want to stop reading. It has some interesting things to say about the nature of reality and guilt and maybe younger readers would be more taken by the various morals of the story, but I never felt connected to the characters and so the story and its messages never resonated with me. Compared to the nuanced characters and plots in the Chaos Walking series everything here felt very superficial. By far the sections that I enjoyed the most were the flashbacks/memories - I found myself anticipating these interludes, hoping that they'd fill in the otherwise bland characterisation but they never managed to flesh out the personalities of the main characters. Too often things just happened to characters - the sense of agency that was so immediate and important to the development of Todd and Viola in The Knife of Never Letting Go etc. was sadly missing here. It's difficult to say much more without ruining the book's twists but I'd also add that the observations on internet culture, immigrant experience and child abuse were very heavy handed and the bluntness of their social commentary distracted from their role in characterisation/narrative.
I'll definitely read Ness' future publications because I refuse to let one disappointing experience completely tarnish my respect for him and his writing but (apologies in advance) I really hope there is more than this.