More Than This by Patrick Ness
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. . .(Goodreads)
From the first pages of this story we know one thing for certain: Seth, our protagonist, dies alone in the freezing ocean, his skull crushing with a final blow against the rocks.
But he wakes. He remembers dying. He can vividly recall that final moment when he knew it was over–yet here he is, wrapped in some strange gauze and bandages, lying face-down in the dirt of his childhood home in England. It’s not the place he was living when he died, but it’s a place he remembers well, a home he shared with his mom and dad and his little brother before tragedy stuck and they packed up to begin a new life in America. Seth doesn’t know why he’s here, but he seems to be very much alone. His days are now empty and his dreams are full of the life he once lived, the pain and guilt he suffered all too vivid. He wonders if this is truly the end for him or if it’s some kind of personal hell and he grapples with the reality of his life before versus his life now, seeking answers and searching for the truth.
Patrick Ness is an incredible writer because his stories build so slowly, patiently giving us each detail, letting us in further until–before you even realize it–you’re in love. You’re invested all the way, clinging to those last shreds of hope with the characters you now love so completely. That’s how I felt when I read The Chaos Walking trilogy (easily one of my favorite books series of all time) and that’s exactly how I felt when I read Seth’s story.
There’s a definite melancholy tone to this book. Seth’s life hasn’t been easy; his trials have not been simple. And while he lives in a family that certainly loves him in the most general sense of the word, you see an overwhelming grief in his parents that translates into an overall apathy toward their eldest son. It’s incredible that when comparing Seth’s life after death to his dreams about his actual life, the loneliness on both sides is palpable, and in that it’s heartbreaking.
There is little I can tell you about the actual story but this: stick with it. There are several twists, there are moments when you think you have it all figured out only to realize…no, you’re wrong again. I think the point here isn’t where Seth has ended up after his death (though that is a big mystery and an interesting part of the story), it’s how he became who he is, what makes him feel and do the things he does, what drives him. As with everyone, the answer is love, and pain, and curiosity, and that journey is what I found to be so intense and sad and beautiful. I definitely cried and I ached for these characters and in the end I loved this book.
Crush Intensity: 5/5 Of course, it’s Patrick Ness
Where I Got It: The library