Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Book Review: More Than This

I have been known to gush about Patrick Ness's writing.  I absolutely loved his The Knife of Never Letting Go, not only for its intriguing title, but also for its fast-paced adventure.  The second and third books in the Chaos Walking trilogy were also fairly good.  Then, I wept as I read A Monster Calls.

It must be quite difficult to be an author with a blockbuster right out the gate.  His first book was phenomenal.  It was a stunning debut.  How do you live up to that kind of hype and appreciation?  I don't know.  It must be hard.

I don't think Ness quite lived up to his reputation with this new book, More Than This.  While it holds many of the landmark Ness traits - an alternate reality, fast-paced adventure, cliffhanger chapter endings, and philosophical questions about life as we know it - it wasn't quite up to the caliber of his first novel.  I'm not saying I didn't like the book, because I did, but of all his books, this would be my least favorite.

 When sixteen year old Seth drowns and then wakens to find himself back in his old house in England (a house the family had moved from after some tragedy struck Seth's younger brother), in a deserted, abandoned land, he wonders if he has landed in his own personal hell.  Every time his exhaustion brings him sleep, he dreams of key events in his past, events which plagued Seth in life.  One of these events centers on the very situation which led to his family's move.  Seth feels responsible and knows his parents still blame him.  In addition to his own private sense of guilt, Seth is struggling with the outing of his relationship with Gudmund, a boy who had been a best friend until things got a bit more personal.  Seth tells himself there has to be more than this in life.  Now, he is faced with the possibility that he was right and there is more.  But, what does that mean and how does that impact his real life?  For that matter, what is real and true in life?

I liked the characters.  They were quirky and interesting.  I liked the quick pacing.  I kept reading as fast as I could to figure out where he was and what would happen in this alternate reality (or was it reality that he had woken from an alternate reality to).  The menacing Driver character provided ample suspense, although I did think that, once again, Ness carried it to an extreme, to the point where the reader begins to say, "really?" It began to feel like just a suspense tool and not a real aspect of the story. If you are loathe to read a book with homosexuality in it, then this is not the book for you.  I suppose, if you're really wanting to encounter Patrick Ness's writing at its best, then I have to recommend The Knife of Never Letting Go, instead of this book.  The first sentence of that book and the very premise of being able to hear people's personal thoughts knock the story out of the ballpark.

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