Patrick Ness: More Than This

“A book… it’s a world all on its own too. A world made of words, where you live for a while.”

Anyone remember when I discovered John Green and feel hard into an author!crush that I am yet to recover from?

It’s happened again.

I have discovered – once again late to the party – Patrick Ness.

Last week I read More Than This, which, well I kind of want to tell you that there’s no other book like it, because I think that might be true. Read it then, for no other reason than that.

I read it because the front cover of my copy says that John Green is telling me to read it, and I love John Green. You should read it because it really is excellent.

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. . . .

It’s so good. So good. The kind of good that grabs hold of you from the word go and refuses to let go and had me sat there again, at 31 years old and marvelling at the quality of fiction out there for young adults right now. Seriously though. Were there books this good when I was stealing Danielle Steel off my Mum’s shelf and reading under the covers? (Not that I will ever admit to that if anyone asks.)
There’s a romance that breaks your heart (and kind of made me want to jump for joy because God, don’t we need more books out there where the sexuality of the character isn’t a thing that defines him, or drives the story; where it’s just a thing that is) and a story that breaks your brain. I want to use the word mindfuckery: every time you think you know where Ness is going, he changes direction and leaves you reeling.  You know what, I’m saying it: this book is a mindfuck. & I loved it. It’s hard to review, actually, because if I tell you too much then I’ll spoil it yet somehow saying ‘the beauty lies in the not having a damn clue what is even happening, just read it,’ feels like a cop out.
What I will tell you is that this is a book that will make you feel all the things. It will make you think and it will make you question and it will make you forget to eat and also sleep and it will make you feel all the things.

It’s a book that is equal parts plot and heart. It works for me I think, because I am always so much more compelled by tales that explore grief more than those that explore joy and you never get to relax into this story, it’s never easy, or happy.  You’re always on the edge because you just don’t know what’s coming next and throughout all the twists and turns, there’s this constant sense of an emotional connection: a weight in your chest, a knot in your tummy. A tear, in fact, in your eye.

“Real life is only ever just real life. Messy. What it means depends on how you look at it. The only thing you’ve got to do is find a way to live there.”

Also, the meta. THE META. Seth is so aware of how stories are told and how stories work and the way he interprets what he sees and how he feels; the questions he asks, even of himself, it’s just so damn clever, and it makes you question things in the same way: Seth’s journey of confusion and despair and fear and acceptance is a journey you find yourself going on with him and the question he’s asking are the questions you’re asking, about this book and every book and your life and it really is all very cleverly done. Things happen and Seth questions them, which makes you question them and this constant questioning makes the story less about the plot and more about the characters. 

It’s a book whose success lies in its excellent structure, its stunning narrative and its emotional core. It’s….I don’t know. I am just doing the typing of the words without even really knowing what point I’m even trying to make.  This review is a bad review. This book is a hard book to review.

Now that I’ve read it though, I want to get my hands on every word Patrick Ness has ever written and I want to devour each and every one of them. & I want to go out for coffee with him, if coffee is a thing he drinks, and I want to ask him just exactly how his brain works, because this book? It’s something special.