I am likely not alone when I say that More Than This was one of my most anticipated novels of this year. I co-hosted #readchaos in preparation, but actually, as it turns out, I wasn’t prepared at all. More Than This is an unusual blend of genres. I’d say it’s primarily science fiction, but it easily works in contemporary, mystery or horror. As you can imagine, this makes it impossible to know what is going to happen next!
Sixteen-year-old Seth, disoriented and confused, wakes up in a house that feels familiar. It seems to be his childhood home, in England, but that cannot be, can it? His family now lives in America. It’s derelict and dusty, and the village has been destroyed and abandoned. He’s bruised and hurt and oh, dead. He must be. He remembers drowning in the sea; the current pushing him under and the crack of his head hitting the rocks. Seth is exhausted so he closes his eyes to rest, only to experience alarmingly vivid dreams that make him relive the most poignant and hard-hitting memories of his life.
Memories are tricky things. It would be impossible to function without them, but it can also be difficult to go on with them. Seth is haunted by a tragic event that occurred when he was a child, involving his younger brother Owen, and a relationship, with another boy called Gudmund, that is no more. Seth’s memories are painful and we relive them with him, discovering that Seth can only picture himself in a way that suggests he’s to blame. But is he really?
Some novels are difficult to put down, some novels are perfect for reading on a rainy day. More Than This is both of these. I hated having to close the book and go to sleep, wanting to find out more and more about what Seth was going through. I always find grief more compelling than joy – which is why I enjoy dark stories the most – and I was constantly kept on edge. What happened to Owen? Where is everyone else in the village? What is the point? More Than This is split into four parts, each providing us with significant revelation about Seth’s new world, and part one – which is nearly 200 pages – was my absolute favourite. I almost felt like I was drowning with Seth, yet it was also strangely calm. I would never have thought a story with just one character could work, let alone one that works perfectly. Unfortunately, this perfection meant that it was harder for the subsequent parts to live up to it, and although they didn’t have quite the same impact on me, it’s where the story starts to come together and we are finally given some answers, some even more tragic than we imagined, and some perhaps a little more hopeful.
More Than This is everything you would expect from Patrick Ness. It’s rather difficult for us to make sense of everything in the world, but we ought to realise that just because we perceive something as so, doesn’t mean it’s true. Seth is about to realise this too.
Published: 5th September 2013 (UK) 10th September 2013 (US)
Publisher: Walker (UK) Candlewick Press (US)