Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Review: More Than This by Patrick Ness

It's... honestly odd that it took me so long to review this.

After all, it's not like we're not talking about one of the biggest names in the YA blogosphere (usually followed by: MANCHEEEEEE!) (conversely, this reminds me of a Stephen King quote where people gave him grief about that one scene of animal cruelty in "The Dead Zone." But that's neither here, nor there.)

Thing is, "More Than This" has a lot to answer to. It's not Patrick Ness' second book, or even his third, but after a highly lauded series like "Chaos Walking," there are expectations in place. (Although, as someone who has yet to read "Chaos Walking", I'm not really one to talk.)

Anyway...

The book opens with our main character, Seth, killing himself. He walks into the sea, gets his head smashed against some rocks, and then wakes up - not in America, but in the tiny English town of his youth. There are no people, no animals, nothing. Or so he thinks.

Protagonist-waking-up-alone stories (as, in fact, most protagonist-all-by-themselves stories) are stylistically tricky to pull off. There needs to be a balance between world-building (or world-discovery) and tension, usually provided through flashbacks ("I am legend" is a prime example of that.) "More Than This" does just that, rotating between Seth exploring and him dreaming of his past, and the events that led to his suicide. We eventually meet more characters and we discover what, exactly, happened, which I won't get into because it's spoilerific as fuck. But...

But.

I've listened to Patrick Ness talk about this book, so I'm in the position of actually knowing what the author "meant" before reading the actual text. I'm not sure if it makes me biased or not - there must be some research done on the subject because there's research done on everything these days - but I was very aware of what the story was about. And... I'll just be honest with you here:

"More Than This" is just.... not a book I want to review.

Not because it's bad. Quite the opposite. But the story leads you to some really dark places, and it's different for every person. I'm not saying you should go into it blind. I'm saying that what this book meant for me will not necessarily mean the same thing for you.

Let me give you some context:

For the longest time last year, I was stressed out, to the point where I became mildly depressed. I still am, in a way. I wake up on some days, look at the world, and I wonder where we're heading out to, what happens next, how can we possibly live happy lives when so many terrible things are happening, and continue to happen despite everyone agreeing they shouldn't. 

Some days, I am so unbelievably angry, I want to destroy everything and everyone.

Some days, I want to run away, even though there is no place to run away to.

Most days, I just go through the motions, hoping that I'll eventually feel better. 

The scenario where I stop hoping is like the instruction manual at Chernobyl - the pages detailing the procedure in case of a nuclear meltdown are blackened out. It's inconceivable. The system will not permit it. I feel like it's that way for the most of us.

Chernobyl is another example of human history where we all agreed, in retrospect, that it was terrible and should not be repeated, and then we went ahead and let it happen again. And probably will continue to let it happen again.

"More Than This" removes the censor bars from the darkest parts of our minds and invites us to read what's on the page. And that's the best review of it I can give.

Note: Image via BookLikes.