Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Review: More Than This

More Than This
By Patrick Ness
Published 2013 by Candlewick Press

Seth drowned. He knows this, he remembers it. And yet, he's alive. Or is he? He's someplace, someplace that seems familiar, but just a little off. Where is he? And what does it mean?

Patrick Ness is one of my favorite writers. If you haven't read the Chaos Walking series, please do it. It will destroy you, but it's so, so worth it. In fact, everything of Ness' that I've read will pretty much destroy you, with this book perhaps being the exception. I made a friend with one of the Candlewick reps at ALA Midwinter in 2013 and she let me know that Ness had a new book publishing that year and they'd have ARCs at Annual and he'd be there, so it was one of the first things to go on my agenda as I planned my Annual conference in 2013.

As you can imagine, this means that I wanted to love this book. I had a signed ARC from one of my favorite authors for a book I'd been anticipating for months. And I liked it. But I didn't love it.

Writing this review at such a remove from reading the book itself is not great for me because I'm finding it more difficult to remember why I felt mostly ambivalent about this book. But I shall try. I think my problems actually started with Seth - I never really connected with him. Yes, his emotions are there on the page but, unlike with other Ness characters, I felt them at a distance. I think I became more interested in the book after the introduction of the other characters - Tomasz and Regine. I felt them more fully than Seth, which is not what I think Ness intended.

Maybe this book was just not the book for me. It's very philosophical and cerebral, more so than most of what I read. While I certainly relish a book that makes me think, sometimes I find that challenge frustrating. I think that's what happened here. Ness has created this story to ask some very big and complicated questions, which is fine and good, but what I really wanted was a great story. I feel almost like the story took a backseat to the ponderings and questioning that Ness is encouraging readers to engage in.

I've talked about ambiguous endings in the past and my opinion of them is pretty ambiguous - sometimes I love them, sometimes I don't. This was a situation when I wanted a more definitive answer. Once again, I completely understand that the not knowing is precisely what Ness was going for, but it's not what I, as the reader, wanted from the book.

I can definitely see this book having its legions of fans and, perhaps, actual young-adult me would have enjoyed this more than grown-up me did. Regardless, Ness is one of the most brilliant authors writing today, so I'll keep eagerly anticipating whatever he decides to do next and treasuring my signed copy of my least favorite of his books because I still think he's that bloody brilliant.

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

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