More Than This, by Patrick Ness

ImageIt is difficult to review a novel in which the main character dies in the preface without giving it all away. I can tell you, though, that for quite a long time you’ll be thinking “?” and “??,” followed by “Oh! But ?,” until the end, when you’ll be thinking, “Turn the pages faster!!”

Seth does truly drown in the very beginning of the novel, and I can assure you that he does not move toward the gentle light where he sees all of his beloved departed waiting for him. Nor is the book one big flashback. The reader works to discover the truth along with Seth in this sci-fi thriller, and events unfold ever more quickly, running toward a breathless conclusion. Along the way, Seth grapples with the nature of reality, wondering if his present circumstances justify the feeling he has always had, that there must be more than this. If this is the “more,” is it what he expected? Or perhaps the “more” was always in front of him before, but he didn’t see it.

I have had several workshops with one of our human resources counselor types, and she often mentioned that humans tend to “self-medicate” in order to cope with life, whether they actually use drugs or alcohol, or whether it’s food, shopping, Facebook, online games, or any number of activities. The alternative, of course, is to face your pain head-on and deal with it. If you have real pain in your life, do you really want to be fully conscious? There’s a line in a Switchfoot song that goes, “I’m awake in the infinite cold….” Most of us would do anything to avoid being awake in the infinite cold. Seth has to decide if he wants to wake up.

Patrick Ness was born in the United States, but now lives in England. He has won the Carnegie Medal and other prizes in the past, and his writing is always top-notch. I have not read the buzz in Printz Award-watch circles yet, but I do have one misgiving concerning this novel. At one point in the book, I thought, “Oh, I’ve seen this movie.” At another point, it was a different movie. Will More Than This be considered derivative? That will be the question, in my opinion.

For those who are just looking for a great read, this is a fun, wild ride. There is sexuality and some profanity, so be forewarned. Recommended for teen and adult sci-fi fans who like to think.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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