More Than This by Patrick Ness
Published by Candlewick on September 10, 2013
my rating: ★★.5
Goodreads avg: 4.00 (as of 2019-08-26)
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. . . .
PSA: There will be spoilers!
I felt quite underwhelmed with More Than This, which is a shame since so many people seem to have loved it. This is the story of a boy named Seth who wakes up in a strange place with the echoes of his death still ringing in his head. While the landscape is familiar, it is a world overrun with decay and there are no other human beings in sight. Seth is convinced he is in Hell, and the reader isn’t quite sure what to believe.
To start with, I really enjoyed it. I liked the idea of a strange afterlife like this, and was increasingly convinced that Seth was actually in a purgatory of sorts, someplace liminal and in-between. I liked the flashbacks that we got, and felt the pacing was good. Seth would wander and contemplate for just the right amount of time before something new cropped up to grab our attention. And I was excited when the two (technically three) new characters were introduced.
It really dropped off for me after that. Once the plot started to shift, I stopped caring almost entirely. It wasn’t unreadable by any means, but I found myself pushing through so I could see how things ended rather than caring about the journey. Maybe I’m just jaded but… I’ve seen The Matrix and felt like I was just reading a new version. I didn’t find it to be a novel, exciting concept and felt like so much was left unexplained — in a lazy way, not an intriguing way. And honestly, I felt like a lot of things were dropped in just for shock value rather than actually adding much to the book itself.
All this is not to say that it’s a bad book! Patrick Ness is a talented writer and there was plenty to enjoy. I was incredulous to find out that this was a 480-page read because it seemed to fly by so quickly. I don’t want my criticisms to turn anyone off reading it, unless they seem like things that are pet peeves of yours as well.