#28 “More Than This” by Patrick Ness

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  1. Goose – Dawn O’Porter
  2. Murder in Mississippi – John Safran
  3. Elianne – Judy Nunn
  4. Divergent – Veronica Roth
  5. Insurgent – Veronica Roth
  6. Allegiant – Veronica Roth
  7. The Messenger – Markus Zusak
  8. Fragile Things – Neil Gaiman
  9. The Mammoth Book of Angels and Demons
  10. NOS4R2 – Joe Hill
  11. Hades – Candice Fox
  12. Last Night at Chateau Marmont – Lauren Weisberger
  13. Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher
  14. The Maze Runner – James Dashner
  15. The Scorch Trials – James Dashner
  16. The Death Cure – James Dashner
  17. A Long Way Down – Nick Hornby
  18. More Than This – Patrick Ness
  19. Cooper Bartholomew Is Dead – Rebecca James
  20. Solitaire – Alice Oseman
  21. Trouble – Non Pratt
  22. The Rose Project – Graeme Simsion
  23. The Bane Chronicles  – Cassandra Clare et al

Where do I even begin, with this book? Do I start with the genre shift? The way Ness tackled serious issues? His unique style? The epilogue?

No, I think I’ll start with the fact that this book took my over a week to finish. This is seriously so shameful. I should have had this book knocked over in two days, three tops. But exams got in the way. I can’t read when I’m studying for exams.  Because of the laborious yet effective way I study, which entails reading and rereading all of my notes, I can’t read my books at the same time. So More Than This had to watch as I chose handwritten notes about Allport’s theory of personality and the ways in which people stop smoking instead of absorbing myself in More Than This‘ pages.

I finally finished the book last night. After dinner, which ended at around 10.30pm, I lay in bed and read before I curled up under the covers. Not that I slept easily. The ending just Blew. My. Mind. But before I get to the ending, I should explain the intricacies of this book.

We start with a nameless boy who wakes up after he dies. He finds himself in a world that resembles one he lived in when he was a child, only it is completely ruined. He thinks he is totally alone until he stumbles across two others, trapped in this supposed “Hell” with him: Regine and Tomasz. And the story kind of unfolds from there.

I don’t think I can do this story justice. There are stories within stories within stories built on a foundation of metafiction. But I will give it a go.

I thought this story was going to be a kind of statement about the afterlife  and religion. But then, about of a third of the way through the book, this philosophical story turns into sci-fi. Without warning! And it was glorious. I usually steer well clear of sci-fi, but Ness not only sprang it on me, but made me love it. I really don’t want to give the story away, because it will detract from your own experience, but let me just say this: the cover? It makes sense when you get into the sci-fi bit. An ingenious kind of sense that makes me what to frame the cover and hang it next to my (eventual) front door and have everyone who enters my house listen to an explanation of why it’s genius.

But underlying the main story is our main man, Seth’s, belief that everything that happens to him is an invention of his subconscious to deal with his death. (We start the story with Seth drowning. We don’t find out how and why he ends up drowning until much later. I’m running out of ways to say “genius”). Ness plays with the convenience of story-telling. Of how Seth gets saved or gets vital information just at the right moment. He constantly has Seth compare his “afterlife” to sci-fi movies and has him predict what will happen based on his knowledge of those movies and their basic structure. So even though we’re reading about what Seth, Regine, and Tomasz are going through, there’s this niggling doubt in the back of our minds that any of it is really happening at all. This is while our heroic trio is in any number of binds. It’s simply…amazing. There is so much depth to this story that it’s hard to summarise it without reducing the story down to something that it just isn’t. More Than This is more than any story I’ve read for a long time.

Oh! And the title? More Than This? It comes up in the book. I thought that only happened in songs! I got a little smile on my face every time the phrase appeared.

I don’t know if any of you remember a few years ago, during the Twilight years, where every YA book worth reading had a recommendation from Stephenie Meyer on the cover somewhere? I mean, The Mortal Instruments had it even though Clare is 1000x the author Meyer ever was. Back to my point, which is that Meyer was the name to have on a book. And now she’s been ousted by John Green. At least he has talent. Anyway, I’m going to give you the John Green Recommendation. Because he nailed it (of course):

“Books are often described as ‘mind-blowing’ but this is one of the few books in which, while reading it, I have exclaimed aloud ‘Oh. My. God.’ on multiple occasions … Just read it.”

Not only is Ness’ story unique, but so is his writing style. Many authors play with language, but not many play with structure. Ness does. And he owns it. Here are just a few examples:

But that isn’t this sky. H lifts his face to it. This sky isn’t even winter. The chill is merely the chill of morning, of possibly a warm day to come, of possibly a summer day. Nothing at all like the bitter wind of the beach. Nothing at all like when he-
When he died.

And then, through the fog and confusion, he feels a soft tremor in his blanketed mind.
A brush, a hint, a featherweight of-
Of-
Is it familiarity?

He uses line breaks, en dashes (or is it em dashes?), brackets, and all sorts of things that many authors shy away from. I shy away from brackets because I always thought they looked sloppy. Nope, I was wrong. Or maybe Ness is just the first author to get them right.

Our main man, Seth, was in love before he died. [SPOILER] With a dude. This is sprung upon us just like the change of genre, but only because we don’t expect a gay protagonist. Which sucks! Ness gave us Seth and Gudmund without any of the fuss that many YA novels make of homosexuality. He introduces the relationship in the same way the majority of YA authors introduce hetero relationships, and this is the main reason why I love Ness. The characters in the relationship didn’t have any troubling story of getting to the point of their relationship, they just were in one. It was the reactions of conservative parents and jealous girls that Ness fixated on. The relationship was just a relationship. It was society that Ness played up. And, for that, I want to hug him. In many of the books I read, homosexuality is like this dropped bomb. It’s supposed to shock us. But Ness made it commonplace. AS. IT. SHOULD. BE. 

Thank you, Ness. Simply, thank you.

Oh My God, I almost forgot the epilogue! The epilogue consists of one and a half pages that totally changes the tone of the entire novel. How can so few pages do that? I don’t know! But after I finished reading them, I questioned everything that I had just read. How? How did he do this? I think the secret lies in the second paragraph. Which I will put here. It’s kind of a spoiler, but not really. So if you want to skip the next italicised bit, just go straight to the star rating. Which I’m sure you’ve already guessed by this point.

He’s uncertain what’s going to happen next.
But he is certain that that’s actually the point.
If this is all a story, then that’s what the story means.
If it isn’t a story, then the exact same is true.

Meta! That is so unbelievably meta! I feel like that isn’t even Seth talking, but Ness. Ness telling us to not believe a word he just wrote. Telling us that no matter what we think the story was, that the point of the story was that there is no point. And yet, the ending is still so satisfying.

Ahh! Literary fangirling!

★★★★★

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About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
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7 Responses to #28 “More Than This” by Patrick Ness

  1. Pretty sure I need to read this as soon as possible.

    • Bec Graham says:

      Yes, yes you do. Ness is AMAZING! I actually have a bit of a book hangover. I don’t want to start my next book!
      (Speaking of, I just bought the physical version of The Bane Chronicles and there’s not only an extra story but some of Cassandra Jean’s AMAZING artwork! I am so excited to get stuck in.

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