Sunday, 12 October 2014

Review || More Than This by Patrick Ness

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? The street seems familiar, but everything is abandoned, overgrown, covered in dust.

What's going on? Is it real? Or has he woken up in his own personal hell? Seth begins to search for answers, hoping desperately that there must be more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife...

I am so torn. I really have no idea how to rate this book.

This entire review contains spoilers for this book. 
Turn back now if you haven't read it!

The first 160 pages of this book were so good. It was everything I wanted. Seth coming to grips with what had happened to him, us discovering what had lead him to this point. The bleakness, the loneliness.

And then the story twists. And at first, I was willing to play along. Because the first part had been so good.

But in the end, I mostly just feel betrayed.

I've seen people complain about the open-ended-ness of the conclusion. Which, I understand, but honestly, if you didn't see that coming from fifty pages away, I don't really know what to tell you.

Ness plays this game with you in the narrative. Is it real? Not real? Does it matter? (I want to make a Peeta Mellark joke here, I am restraining myself.) And while I can understand what he was going for, it's not a choice I respected. It started to feel like we were trying just a bit too hard.

Which is a real shame. Because there are moments of sheer brilliance hidden away in here. The first 160 pages, as I mentioned, but also the slow unraveling of what had happened. The dynamics and interplay between characters was so strong, so real. I would literally read an entire book about Tomasz.

And that's part of why I think I'm so torn. Because I am so disappointed. Even as we hit the weird Twilight Zone-esque happenings, I was still prepared to go along for the ride. But it just continued to devolve.

I was genuinely frustrated by this book as I finished it. Unsatisfied, not because of the open ending, but because of the wasted potential. This was not a book with answers. Which I get. But instead of being a poignant tale about a young boy coming to terms with his life and death, it ended up as a overwrought cliched mess.