This one will play with your head a bit; Patrick Ness is a master storyteller. In More Than This, he creates a maze, shoves your brain in, and runs away, leaving you to try and find your way through it. (I also imagine him cackling evilly as he runs, but that’s pure conjecture on my part. I’m sure he is a very nice man.)
16 year old Seth Wearing died. More specifically, he drowned, purposefully, sadly, all alone. His parent blamed him for the tragedy that stole his younger brother from them when Seth was 8, from which none of them ever recovered. They moved halfway around the world to escape the sadness, and when he finally found happiness again, it was brutally yanked away. So, one day, he went swimming, fully clothed, in the icy winter Pacific. And he died.
And woke up in Hell. Naked. But Hell looked a lot like the town he grew up in England, before Owen was abducted. Except without the people. So, Hell is a deserted small town, next to a deserted prison, in rural England. With scorched earth and rotted food, no electricity, and a lot of overgrown weeds and ash and dust. So is he dead? Or dreaming? Or…?
First, the characters are great in this story. Seth, Gudmund, Regine, Tomasz, mum and dad – all come alive in a few vivid strokes of Ness’s pen. His writing is incredible, and the pace of the book is perfect. I wanted to know what happened next, but did not want the book to end. It was an epic dilemma; do I spend the day reading, forgo meals and sleep and ignore those piles of laundry and dishes, or do I put down the book, savour the anticipation of the story, and fulfill my responsibilities…? Guess what won.
The ending delievers an absolute brainpunch. Ness constantly takes what you think you know and turns it upside down and sideways. But at no time is the book confusing, it just keeps you on your toes and has you re-reading and questioning what you just read, what you think you know.
Appropriate for teens, and for moms and dads who want to mess with their kids’ heads. Read it. You will believe that there has to be more than this.
More Than This is published by Candlewick Press.