I read this book as part of a module for the English Literature side of my course at university, called ‘Cultures of Childhood’, it was the last text on the module that we studied – it certainly left a lasting impression.
I hadn’t even heard of Patrick Ness before being introduced to him by my module book list – and thank god it did. The novel has one of the most unbelievably striking openings I have ever come across as we are told – ‘Here is the boy, drowning.’ I was hooked, not just hooked, more than that; compelled, spellbound.
The novel starts with Seth (the protagonist of the piece) dying, and this honestly isn’t a spoiler as it happens within the first few pages – but that isn’t the end, it is the beginning and boy, is it a beginning. The story kicks off with Seth then waking up, and the events that develop after he wakes in an empty, seemingly post apocalyptic space that he recognizes, and begins to assume is Hell. Seth Wearing works as a fantastic vessel to narrate through, he is 16 (a little older than many YA fiction protagonists), he is brutally honest about himself, he is smart – you do not find yourself becoming wound up about him not figuring things out fast enough, or you know, getting food. Another thing Seth brings to the story, brilliantly, is this palpable sense of being lost as a young teen. He has had awful things happen to him, has had hopes shattered and is trying to figure out what it means that after all of that he is still expected to go on. The novel also plays around, very nicely, with past and present. We find out things about Seth’s past, about what lead to him being on that beach, what lead to him drowning in the sea, through little bread crumb snippets of info, where as they reach climaxes, we are burst out of them, along with Seth as he wakes up. Only, when he wakes up, he knows they aren’t dreams, they’re memories, memories from when he was ‘alive’.
There is true and raw heartbreak in this story, and thank Patrick Ness for writing a novel where the fact that the protagonist is gay isn’t the main event, there’s no huge conflict surrounding it that determines the novel; and that’s the whole point – it’s more.
Reality, and what reality is, plays a huge part in this book too. As Regine say’s ‘We have to lie to ourselves to live. Otherwise, we’d go crazy.’ And there are many instances in More Than This where the characters are indeed lying to themselves, unintentionally or not. It treads the same line as The Matrix did in terms of dabbling with heavy philosophical ideas and trying to get the audience/reader to seriously question how they want to engage with their own reality. However, I truly believe Ness’ More Than This triumphs in this effect on a whole other level. Seth Wearing, ultimately works as a much more interesting reincarnation of the figure who leaves the cave in Plato’s allegory of The Cave, and emerges, faced with the truth and the choice of what to do with it. The Story he has to tell here is profound and important, and despite the YA Fiction genre stamp, it should and can be read by anyone.
Fundamentally, in More Than This, Ness is asking us, how do you want to live? Do you want to stand by and let things pass, stay the way they are? Or do you want to search for more? And after reading this novel, I did. I wanted to find more, do more, be more and it made be open up my laptop and start writing my own novel again.
For anyone who enjoys being challenged by their book, but still engrossed in a phenomenal story with twists and turns galore, I can’t recommend More Than This more (so many ‘more’s’). And to anyone who has decided, for some (probably pretentious) reason that YA fiction isn’t for them; don’t judge before reading, it isn’t always all about a teen’s first love, or a fight to the death, as Ness said himself, ‘There is always more’.
I give this novel 5 stars/ 10/10