Tag Archives: mystery

Stalking Jack the Ripper

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I have been waiting and waiting for this novel to come out, and was so afraid it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. Not only is the cover stunning, that incredible first sentence grabs you and won’t let go for the rest of the novel.

17-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth wants to be a scientist. Specifically, a forensic scientist, helping Scotland Yard solve murders and various crimes though post mortem examination of victims. The trouble is, Audrey Rose is the daughter of a lord in 1880’s London, and she should be attending teas and social outings, not cutting into dead bodies and searching for clues on the trail of vicious killers.

Her father has been teetering on the edge of insanity since the death of her mother five years before, while her brother flits from one area of interest to the next, all the while living the high life befitting that of a lord’s son. Her Uncle Jonathon, a forensics expert, does not see eye to eye with her father, and secretly tutors Audrey in the medical arts without her father’s knowledge.

And then Jack the Ripper begins his rampage through the underbelly of Whitechapel in London.

The actual identity of Jack the Ripper has never been discovered. There are theories galore about who the man might have been, but no one knows for sure. So he can be anybody. He tore through Whitechapel in 1888, preying on prostitutes, removing their internal organs after he slit their throats. One of the many thoughts were that he was a surgeon, or had some medical knowledge.

I loved the little touches throughout the novel like the period photos and blood splatter on the chapter headings. Talk about gruesome and evocative! What a way to set the tone.

Audrey Rose is an interesting character. She is willful and strong, and interested in more than teas and marriage. She wants to make a difference in the world, refusing to let society dictate her behaviour. Audrey is bi-racial, Indian and English, and I think not enough was made of that in the novel, beyond her enjoyment of traditional Indian snacks and the fact her Indian grandmother did not seem to approve of her English father.  Her mixed heritage seemed almost an afterthought thrown into the novel, with no real impact on the story.

Fellow forensics student Thomas Cresswell is witty and charming and intent of winning Audrey’s heart, regardless of the fact he is not a suitable match. I like him, although I was never quite sure through the story if the romance was believable out not. They never seemed to move beyond verbal sparring, despite the fact that Audrey did notice how handsome Thomas was almost every time they spoke. But then he would infuriate her, and she would back away. But he is an intelligent, enjoyable character, who kept me on my toes with the twists and turns of his backstory.

Uncle John and Lord Wadsworth are perfect sparring brothers, unable to see beyond past grievances to come together as a family. Aunt Amelia didn’t really have much impact on the story, despite her many appearances, but I did love Cousin Liza’s irreverent attitude and the obvious affection the two girls had for each other.

Debut author Kerri Maniscalco captures perfectly the tone and atmosphere of the time in her writing. Her use of language and description brings the reader right into the dark, damp streets of London, with fear lying as heavy as the ever-present fog.

The story is complex, and the pace quite slow and descriptive. Perhaps too slow and too descriptive. Every action, every outfit, every mood and every thought is described and attributed. Audrey never just stands, she stands proudly, or angrily, or regally. Thomas never just answers a question, he answers it haughtily or mysteriously or argumentatively. Uncle John never just speaks, he speaks thoughtfully or distractedly or moodily. Audrey smooths her intricately embroidered black dress, clenches her hands in the perfectly stitched gloves, and stumbles in her smooth blush silk slippers. Unfortunately, I got bogged down in all the description and found myself losing the thread of the story and having to re-read passages to get back on track.

As for the stalking that Thomas and Audrey do, I spent most of the novel waiting for it to actually occur.  I don’t think it ever did. The pair looked for him. They studied crime scene evidence and psychological journals. But they never actually stalked him.

The conclusion is wonderful. I loved the last chapter of the novel, how everything tied together, how relationships were resolved. Really well done.

This is a good start to a series. It is quite violent and gory, as a good Jack the Ripper story should be, so is not for the faint of heart. I found myself on the edge of my seat, despite any criticisms I have, and look forward to the follow-up books to see where Audrey Rose’s curiosity takes her next.

Stalking Jack the Ripper was published September 20th, 2016 by Jimmy Patterson.

A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1)

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So, Holmes and Watson are not fictional characters. And Arthur Conan Doyle did not write about them. Actually, Sherlock solved the crimes, Watson wrote the books, and Arthur Conan Doyle was his literary agent.

Fast forward a century or so, and 16 year old Jamie Watson, great-etc. grandson of Dr John Watson leaves London on a rugby scholarship to a Connecticut boarding school, where he meets up with the great-etc. granddaughter of Sherlock, Charlotte Holmes. The two families have been linked since the beginning, but do not always get along. Charlotte has fascinated him for as long as he can remember. Once they meet, however, the imagined romance of their linked history is wiped away. She has no need of his presence.

But when a student is murdered in a copycat of a Holmes mystery, the two infamous cohorts are under suspicion. By everyone.

I was really looking forward to this one.  Then I started reading it, and I became annoyed. Charlotte annoys me.  Jamie annoys me. I realize it is a retelling of Sherlock, but the whole murder most foul at a ritzy boarding school with predictable characters is, well, predictable and annoying. (I need a thesaurus).  And the plot is confusing.

And I still stick by that, but admit, that for all my irritation, the book is hard to put down.

Charlotte has inherited not only her genius for detection, but also a drug addiction and erratic temperament from her famous forefather. Two things don’t ring true for me. The original Sherlock was an ass, but also had a quick wit and charm. Charlotte has neither.  She is not stupid, but comes across as rather spoiled and bratty, rather than charming.

And I find the way the drug addiction is handled in the story confusing; no one seems that concerned about it, it seems very much a “oh, she’s just like him.” I don’t think sending a teen to a posh boarding school is an approved way of dealing with a drug dependency.

Jamie is a bit boring as a narrator. Again, his personality does not always make sense. One minute, he has an uncontrollable temper, the next he is meek and mild, and doesn’t speak up for himself. He adopts the sidekick role with Charlotte, and allows her to call the shots, almost as if he has inherited the role, and can’t be bothered finding his own place.

The development of the friendship did, on the other hand, strike true to me. It happens over time, and seems genuine.

The plot is all over the place. Pacing was slow at times, and quite action-packed at others. The story has potential to be more, but I am not sure where the problem lies. A retelling needs to honour the original, while adding something new. And female lead aside, I am not sure this one accomplishes what it sets out to do.

I am really on the fence about this novel. It was hard to put down, Brittany Cavallari’s writing pulls you in, but I cannot honestly say it is enjoyable.

There is discussion of sexual violence, although no description of it. Drug use is, again, discussed but not described in detail. Any teen can read this book, but I am not sure whether it is better to be a Sherlock fan, or to not know the original to appreciate the story.

I think that this is a novel that the reader will either love or hate. It just didn’t do it for me.

A Study in Charlotte was published March 1st 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books.

The Silence of Six (SOS #1)

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What is the silence of six, and what are you going to do about it?

After hacking into the live-streaming Presidential debate at Granville High, and asking the candidates to answer the question, an anonymous member of hacker group Dramatis Personai kills himself on screen. Except he isn’t anonymous. Former hacker Max Stein recognizes him: 17 year old Evan Baxter, a genius hacker, code name ST0P, and Max’s best friend. And now dead.

Just moments before the hack, Max received an encrypted text from Evan, with an apology, a plea for help, and a warning. Post-hack, the government shut down the school’s wifi, confiscates the students’ technology, and sends them on their way. And all of a sudden Max is on the run, in danger and up to his neck in conspiracy, hacking, and privacy issues.

This story has everything.

Main characters Max and Penny are fantastic. And I didn’t like either of them, in the beginning. That changes as they develop throughout the story. Max has flaws, but he recognizes and tries to deal with them. Penny is a loner, ready to run, a hacker who knows she could be caught at any moment. But she learns to trust Max as he learns to trust her, and they form a strong team in their search for the information Evan left behind.

Evan, although he leaves the story early, is present throughout as the two hackers follow his clues and unravel the mystery that led to his death. His character is wonderful; diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is obsessive about privacy, organized, and loyal.

The plot is fast-paced and original. Author E.C. Myers not only gives the reader a thrill ride with high speed chases, men in black, genius teenage hackers, and just-in-time escapes, but also delves into the concept of privacy, and social media as a tool for gathering information and control. What is the connection?

The tech giant Panjea runs a Facebook-like site that connects users and gathers information. What is happening to this data? What is it being used for, and by whom?

The “anonymity is good, government is bad” message is a bit heavy handed, but does keep the narrative on track.

My one criticism of the novel is the info dump that seems to take place every time Max or Penny or anyone with a computer turns it on. Information is great. And I know next to nothing about coding and hacking, so a bit of knowledge is good. But even I don’t need to know absolutely every keystroke that Max takes to delete a file. Or download one.

The author has added an interesting dimension to the story with a website, a YouTube channel, a blog, and a tumblr account that appear in the book, although they have not been updated since early 2015. With a sequel in the works, however, this could change.

Keeping in mind the graphic description of Evan’s death in the first chapter of the book, The Silence of Six is still appropriate for the entire YA age range, and serves as an interesting commentary about what we choose to share online. It is original and exciting and makes you wish you could surf government servers just for fun.

The Silence of Six was published November 5th 2014 by Adaptive Books.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds

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If ever I wanted a book to go on and on, this is the one. What an original, enchanting, heart-breaking, haunting (no pun intended), story.

In October 1918, 16 year old Mary Shelley (yes, named after the author) Black flees to San Diego and her Aunt Eva on the heels of her father’s arrest for treason back in Oregon. She arrives hoping to hear news of Stephen, first a childhood friend, and then her first true love. He joined the war effort just shy of graduating school, and letters from him are sporadic.

Stephen’s older brother Julius is a Spiritualist, one who claims he can see and capture the spirit world with his camera. Julius preys on the desperate, who have lost so many loved ones to the war overseas and the deadly Spanish influenza. Unknowingly and unwillingly, Mary becomes his muse, helping to attract his bereaved customers with a doctored image.

But Mary’s scepticism of the spirit world takes a beating when she learns Stephen has been lost, and she herself narrowly escapes death, forever changed by the experience. She begins to feel a presence, an overwhelming knowledge that the young man’s essence is near and in agony, and her scientific curiosity gets the better of her as she searches for a way to help Stephen rest in peace.

Author Cat Winters has me caring about her characters from page one. Mary Shelley is a lost girl, trying to deal with the father she loves being arrested, trying to understand why someone doing right can be accused of wrong, trying to handle the enormity of loss brought on by world conflict. Strong and intelligent, she uses a scientific approach to solve her problems, is a feminist raised to see value in the human being, not the gender. “Why can’t a girl be smart without it being explained away as a rare supernatural phenomenon?”

Stephen is as gentle and caring as his brother is vindictive and selfish. His curious mind and nature are drawn to Mary Shelley’s strength and drive, and although we see little of him whole in the novel, Winters draws a complete picture of him. Aunt Eva is a great complex individual – while she is breaking down barriers, proud of her work in the shipyards building battleships while the men are overseas, she also is a product of her time, widowed young and worried that she won’t find a man at her advanced age of 26.

The plot is engaging from the first page. The initial few chapters do a great job of setting the stage, and by the second half I was fully immersed. As Mary’s world unravels, the action is non-stop and I did an extra 15 minutes on the treadmill because I couldn’t stop reading (my thighs thank Cat Winters).

Mary, as a budding scientist, struggles against stereotypes in a man’s world. Winters manages to weave in a few lessons of the struggle for women’s emancipation without it taking over the story. Aunt Eva’s work in the shipyard illustrates in a few words the shifting and changing expectations of women, not only by men but also by the women themselves.

Ugliness and death are everywhere. There is only fear and mistrust where there was life and curiosity before. Everyone wears gauze masks to protect and mask themselves, and a culture of fear evolves, fed by the snake oil salesman and spiritualists.

The search for equality, the hunt for solace, the need for peace, the desire for answers to how and why; Winters manages to explore so many aspects of human nature, without forcing the story or spoon-feeding the reader. Her style is completely captivating. Her writing evokes images of the horror in the trenches, the uncertainty of life in a flu-ridden city, and the beginning of hope.

This is a lovely, multi-layered story, well-researched about a horrific time in world history. It is a snapshot of a time of fatigue, when hope was nearly gone. Along with the gorgeous sepia cover are archival photographs from the period scattered throughout the novel, adding to the realism of the story. It is easily one of my new favourites.

Appropriate for any age, with the acknowledgment that there is description of war wounds and influenza deaths.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds was published April 2nd 2013 by Amulet Books.

Daughter of Deep Silence

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I’m the daughter of murdered parents.
I’m the friend of a dead girl.
I’m the lover of my enemy.
And I will have my revenge.

The Persephone has burned up while at sea, and gone to the ocean floor. Four people managed to escape the devastation that killed hundreds. Two of them are complicit in the mass murder, and lie to the world about the events. Unbeknownst to them, however, two others escape in a life boat. One dies after drifting at sea for seven days awaiting rescue. Only one, 14 year old Frances, is left to speak for the dead, but who will believe her?

Her best friend Libby died just hours before rescuers found them. Libby’s father, Cecil, crushed by his loss, believes Frances’ story and convinces her to become Libby, so that he can protect her.  Orphaned by the tragic events, she agrees, and switches identities with her best friend.  “Frances” is buried and mourned.

Four years later, her adopted father dies, and Frances/Libby makes her move.  She will avenge her parents’ and friend’s deaths.

I enjoyed this book, start to finish. It was a LOT of fun to read, but it was not the revenge story promised. In YA fiction, you expect more. There should have been more anger, more hatred, more desire for revenge, more cliffhangers and plot twists.  Instead it was less that, and more “I still want the boy I wanted four years ago, even though he might have had a hand in killing my parents.” So, not entirely believable.

Frances is an inconsistent character, and not really likeable, even though you would think she would be incredibly sympathetic. I never got the feeling that she connected with anyone, including the man who had saved her. The inconsistencies stood out far too much for me; she spent four years studying Libby’s life, becoming her, and then made obvious errors of behaviour, showing glaring omissions from what was supposed to be meticulous research.

The pacing is good, the flashbacks a bit repetitive but still work in the story. There is always action, with no lags or long periods where the reader has to wait for something to happen.  There is a twist, which is expected in a revenge/thriller type novel, but it is, unfortunately, ordinary.  It did not grab me and throw me against the back of my seat and make me reread pages, searching for clues.

With all that, it was a fun book to read.  Carrie Ryan is a gorgeous writer.  Her use of the language, her structure, everything is so well done that any flaws the plot might have are hidden by her ability to take you deep into her story.  The novel just did not challenge me the way I had hoped or expected.

So read it for fun. It is a fast one, good for an afternoon curled up with a cup of tea, when you have no desire to step foot outside the house. Although there is death and a bit of graphic description, it is appropriate for the entire age range of YA.

Daughter of Deep Silence is published Dutton Books for Young Readers.

The Fixer

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YA political thriller? Sign. Me. Up. Here is a book that will throw your head for a loop and shake your brain. EVERYTHING in this novel is a plot twist.  Nothing is as it seems. I loved it. I don’t care if it was realistic or not, this story sucked me right in. It is great.

Tess Kendrick has spent most of her 16 years on her grandfather’s ranch, after the death of her parents when she was young. But her grandfather has early onset Alzheimers, and Tess can’t care for him much longer.  Her estranged sister, Ivy, uproots her to D.C., and Tess enters a new world where power determines status.

She transfers into Hardwicke Academy, the exclusive private school for children of the Washington elite, where politics and power also rule. She bonds immediately with her tour guide, Vivvie, never guessing that this casual friendship it will lead into conspiracy and intrigue of her own.

There is the mysterious death of a Supreme Court Justice, backroom negotiations, political arm-twisting, mysterious pasts and relationships, as well as a bit of life-and-death bargaining thrown in, just in case you get bored. (You won’t.)

The characters are fantastic.  Tess is a straightforward, sarcastic, self-assured teen who takes crap from no one. She learns quickly that nothing is for free, and it is all about what she has to offer in return. Her entourage of Vivvie, Emilia, Asher and Henry are all distinct voices on their own, with believable personalities and influences on the action.

The adults, who I often think don’t get a fair shake in YA lit, are distinctive as well, with their own backstories and intrigues that play well with the teens’ storyline. Sister Ivy and her cohorts Adam, Bodie, and the host Washington power brokers she mingles amongst are all well defined.

The plot was totally the kind of conspiracy and intrigue that you imagine goes on behind the scenes in politics – whether it be in Washington, Ottawa, London or anywhere else. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. You get rid of my enemy, I’ll funnel cash or contracts or position your way. Ruthlessness and power. It’s awesome.

And at the end, a cliff-hanger.

Author Jennifer Lynn Barnes is no stranger to YA fiction, but this is a new direction for her, and one I hope she continues on. Hint: a sequel, please?

This book is great for any teen, and any adult who wants an evening of sitting on the edge of your seat, holding your breath and tearing through the pages.  It is not relaxing.

The Fixer is published by Bloomsbury.

Young Bond (series)

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Have you ever wondered how James Bond became 007?  How the man became that intense, unknowable, international man of mystery?  (And yes, I am currently picturing Daniel Craig in Skyfall, after he jumps into the moving train car and adjusts his shirt cuffs….  sigh…) Where was I?  Oh. Right.

Charlie Higson has taken on the monumental task of telling us how a boy became the legend.  And he does a GREAT job of it in the Young Bond series. Titles like Silverfin, Blood Fever and By Royal Command, to name just a few, evoke the mystery and intrigue of a classic Bond thriller.

Set pre-WWII, the novels set up a strong back story for the Fleming novels, far exceeding my expectations.  I find that prequels can sometimes seem forced, but that doesn’t happen here. The series takes place over James’ years at Eton, beginning at age 13, right up until he is recruited by Her Majesty’s Secret Service in his late teens.  There is the conflict with fellow students and authority, along with excellence in sport, all of which gives us a glimpse of the strength of his future personality.

Everything we already know about Bond is nicely set up: his likes and dislikes, love of family and loyalty to friends, his penchant for fast cars and beautiful women, and the experiences and details which  forever shaped him into Fleming’s top spy.

Also included are the details that make a Bond story a Bond story: mad villians with their henchmen and their fiendish plans, (all with awesomely evil names like Count Ugo Carnifex and El Huracin and Graf von Schlick), crazy car chases, international subterfuge, and even the precursors to the “Bond girls”, independent and beautiful teenage girls, suitably named Wilder, Vendetta and Precious. (Unlike his future interactions with women in the movies and Fleming novels, all action is PG-13.)

The series was sanctioned by the Ian Fleming estate, so you know from page one that you are getting unadulterated Bond. The pacing is everything you expect from a Bond mystery, the action is detailed, and the character development perfect.

These are a must read for every Bond fan, as well as any teen, boy or girl, who dreams of international intrigue, and doesn’t mind a bit of death and gore.  Well, more than a bit.  But done with the elegance you expect from 007.

The Young Bond series is published by Puffin Books.

Afterworlds

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Scott Westerfeld has written a masterfully intertwining story of heightened reality and the creepy supernatural.

This book sat on my shelf for a long time before I finally cracked it open.  I’m not really sure why, other than every time I went to pick it up, I hesitated, and choose another book instead.  It’s a little intimidating at six hundred pages in length, with an ambitious story line.

Darcy Patel is 18 years old, and just signed a two book contract with Paradox Publishing, based on the rough draft of a novel she wrote in 30 days in her senior year of high school. She is moving to New York City to live the life of a YA novelist, leaving behind friends, family, and a college acceptance.

But Afterworlds is more than the story of a young woman living her own life for the first time. It is also the book that Darcy wrote, alternating chapters with her own story. The Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead, and 17 year old Lizzie drifts there, discovering her purpose to help those who are gone. There is a terrorist attack, a crossover to the underworld, a ton of creepiness, and an extremely hot death god, interspersed with Darcy’s first apartment, first job, and first love. It’s amazing.

Westerfeld has written two complex, completely different novels in one, and never seems to force the stories to make them work.  Each chapter flows seamlessly to the next, and their proximity makes sense.  Darcy takes us through the writing of Lizzie’s story, and Lizzie lives it in the novel, even as Darcy is living her own life off the page.

Would a then 17 year old sign a six figure book deal based on the first chapter of a novel she pumped out in 30 days?  I’m going to say probably not, but I don’t care.  It was a necessary twist to set the base for the story/stories, and it was a lot of fun.

I know little to nothing of the publishing industry, but given that Westerfeld has published a LOT, I am going to take him as the expert. So, I will assume that the basics are true, with some literary license taken for fun.  Because if it is all true, and all YA novelists live in awesome apartments in NYC and have drinks together and spend their days eating noodles and drinking and sleeping, and writing and rewriting all night, I am packing my things, kissing the family good-bye, and heading to the Big Apple.  YA heaven, indeed.

I have two criticisms, both fairly benign. The first is Darcy’s novel is the finished product (it seems).  I would have liked it to start out in the early draft stage, and then as Darcy’s own story evolves, so does her writing.

The second criticism is purely editorial/personal/petty. Or maybe it was just a wish. The blurb on the front of the book reads “Darcy writes the words. Lizzie lives them.” I thought, before reading, that there was going to be a supernatural connection between the two girls, that Lizzie was actually living somewhere, her life controlled by a YA author in NYC. That’s not what happens.  But it would have been cool.

All said, Afterworlds was really good.  Any teen can read it, and it is challenging enough to hold anyone’s interest.  I ended up staying up well past my bedtime to finish it.

Afterworlds is published by Simon Pulse.

Reconstructing Amelia

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This was an interesting book to read.  And challenging to review.  Because on one hand, I want to yell from the rooftops “WOW!!  Read this, now!”  On the other hand, I think, “Eh. It’s ok…”  Why the dichotomy?  It is a good story. But is it great?

Kate is a single mom in New York City, a partner in a law firm, busy, stressed, happy to have an intelligent, independent daughter in Amelia, who understands her schedule.   Amelia attends an exclusive private school, Grace Hall, and dreams of going to Princeton to be a writer.  She’s a lock for it.

Until she is caught cheating on an English paper, and suspended.  Until she jumps from the roof of the school, in despair.

And a month later, after returning to work, unable to deal with the loneliness of her empty brownstone, Kate receives an anonymous text:  She didn’t jump

What follows is the story of an anguished mother who begins to feel like she didn’t know her own daughter.  She reads Amelia’s texts and Facebook posts and reconstructs her life, sifting through emails, texts, and social media to get to the truth about the last days of her life.

Kimberly McCreight’s debut novel is interesting. The idea behind the book is fantastic; the story is developed well, and I love the social media posts and texts that Kate follows as she deciphers Amelia’s last days. It begins with a great punch. The gossip blog gRaCeFULLY sets the mood for the entire novel with a nasty, celebrity-magazine tone.

This is another story in alternating voices, and alternating times, giving both the girl and her mother a chance to live the same experiences.  Amelia is in the present, immersed in experiences first hand, unable to see the forest for the trees.  Kate sees the same experiences with wisdom of age and hindsight.  It is a story of secrets, of love, of discovery and of betrayal, of bullies, and of friends you thought you knew.

In the end, it is about how well a mother ever really knows her daughter.

My issue with the novel was McCreight did not let us draw our own conclusions. She is a victim of her own ideas, and a bit unsure about conveying them. She can’t let the reader follow the story and make his or her own assumptions about personalities or relationships.  She leads the reader by the hand through everything, and the story loses spontaneity.

The characters are not totally believable, but again, that is McCreight’s inexperience as a writer showing through.  The bones of a fantastic book are all there.

So read this book.  The story will leave you guessing.  Enjoy it for the excellent ideas and twists and turns.  Decipher the texts and try to guess the players involved.  They all come as a surprise.

Appropriate for all teens.

Reconstructing Amelia is published by Harper Perennial.

More Than This

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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.