"Here is the boy, drowning.
In these last moments, it's not the water that's finally done for him; it's the cold.
It is too late for him.
He will die.
And he will die alone.
He wakes up. He's covered in weird bandages. Well, partially covered. He's in a strange, desolate, dried up town that seems totally empty and totally dead. Then he finds something that cannot be. His childhood home. The one in England. The one an ocean away from where he died. The one he left years ago after the tragedy that no one in his family will talk about. The tragedy that is all. his. fault. It is a dusty dead, burnt out world. A world in which he doesn't dream, so much as relive his past life in painful, frustrating detail. Since he can't really be alive and he can't really be in England. He realizes that he must be in his own personal, private Hell. But even in Hell, there has to be more than this! Doesn't there?
This is a tough book to review, because so much of what I love about it would reveal plot twists that should go unspoiled! I can say that Ness has hit it out of the park once again with his deft use of realistic reaction and emotion in fantastic and seemingly impossible situations. The boy, Seth is a scared and scarred teen trying to survive and looking for a reason to survive. His doubts and frustration in the dead world he wakes up in and in his reliving his past are so well conveyed they feel universal. I found myself rooting for Seth whether he was gripped by loneliness and despair or searching anywhere for a glimmer of hope. Ness is able to wring drama and action aplenty with Seth just wandering around his new wasteland home, before he ever begins to reveal any of the books mysteries. For the price of one book (free because we are a library) you get a weird sci-fi (maybe) apocalytpic adventure, a devastating and harrowing look at living (and dying) with grief, a TOTAL brain twisting look at the very nature of reality itself, a beautiful and painful contemporary romance (as told in flashback), and several other wonderful surprises I won't spoil!
Young Adult fiction definitely has a lot of books where the main character has a painful past that is revealed bit by bit every few chapters until the final cathartic reveal. What makes More Than This stand apart is that the structure isn't just used to string the plot out, it becomes a part of the plot and the deeper themes of the book itself. Also, unlike some books that use this device, you never want to yell "HURRY UP ALREADY!!!", because BOTH worlds Seth is living in are fascinating in their own way. I highly recommend this to anyone taht wants to read something truly unique. It is going SUPER high on my Best Of list this year, and I think it will top yours too.
Check our catalog for More Than This here.