September 28, 2018

Patrick Ness: "More Than This"

Title: More Than This [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Patrick Ness [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Dystopian? Sci-Fi? Afterlife? None of that? It depends on how you understand it...
Year: 2014
Age: 14+
Stars: 3.5
Pros: Fascinating, heartfelt story that makes you care for the characters. Unapologetic, yet sweet representation of a gay relationship. Prose that manages to feel deep and rich despite its simplicity.
Cons: You peel layer after layer and you're left with virtually nothing under them, except the very message the title already conveyed.
Will appeal to: Those who like mindfucking books where getting the message is more important than actually believing in the story.

Blurb: Seth drowns, desperate and alone. But then he wakes. Naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. And where is he? The street seems familiar, but everything is abandoned, overgrown, covered in dust. He remembers dying, his skull bashed against the rocks. Has he woken up in his own personal hell? Is there more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife? (Amazon)

Review: This is one of the rare books I managed to get not long after it came out - just a few months. And all this time I have struggled with writing a proper review for it...I did a mini that I probably should leave alone, because I'm not sure I can articulate my thoughts better in a long review, even now - but writing detailed reviews is a compulsion for me 😂. So here goes...


The first section is GREAT, and while reading this book for the first time, I was sure it would be a 5-star one by the end. I understand that the aforementioned first section is not for everyone, because it's all about Seth waking up from...whatever his alleged death was, trying (unsuccessfully) to make sense of his situation, tending to his basic needs, exploring the place, asking himself questions, meeting (or not meeting) a few animals, feeling alone, dreaming painfully vivid and detailed snippets of his past. But I would have happily read a whole book about that - the whole darned 472 pages of it. The mystery was compelling and fascinating - while I loved the feeling of slowly peeling its layers along with Seth, I was also excited to live in that world for as long as it took to get real answers. Personal hell (as Seth himself believes)? Post-apocalyptic world? Coma dream? Or something else entirely? Plus, I loved his dreams/recollections/whatever they were, and not just as means to unlock the mystery. There's a solid, engrossing yet quiet YA contemporary wrapped into the mystery of Seth's awakening - and when I say "quiet" I mean "unglamorous", not "uneventful". There's a love story, and a friendship story, and a betrayal story, and a family story - and raw, real pain. There's a unapologetic, yet not graphic at all, sex scene between two boys, which is first and foremost a LOVE scene. And finally, the writing is solid, engrossing yet quiet as well. But...this was when the book shifted. [...]


Suddenly, Seth is not alone anymore in whatever the place he woke up in is. He gains two pals and a mysterious enemy at the same time - and mind you, it's not like they aren't interesting. Both Regine and Tomasz are tridimensional characters, with quirks you can't help loving them for even when they annoy you just a bit - just like real persons, you know. Also, apparently, they have answers...though they only seem to lead to more questions. I'm not going to talk about the Driver (the mysterious enemy I mentioned) just so I don't spoil the book for you, but I will comment that, once their purpose is revealed, there's a practical reason why it doesn't make sense that there aren't other Drivers around, and that they should be destroyed in the first place - though the kids are forced to try to do just that. On top of that, while in the first section Seth entertained the occasional doubt that the place he woke up in was a figment of his imagination, the all-too-convenient circumstances of his encounter with Regine and Tomasz (and a few more coincidences) bring him to doubt their very existence - and the reality of his predicament - more and more. Now, I love metafiction, when done well. But this is NOT a case of metafiction. And if I have to root for a character and believe in them, they have to believe in their own reality first. I was torn here, which is still a good thing - because I did love these kids nevertheless. But it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to believe in these characters, while they (well, one of them at least) were constantly doubting their own reality/existence, not to mention the impossibilities piling up as if to say "Hey, see? Seth is right after all. This is just a story". And I didn't like the reminder a little bit. Also...this was where the book shifted again.


In the end, something SO OUTRAGEOUSLY IMPOSSIBLE (not to mention unexplainable) happens, that there's no way of suspending disbelief. By now, we have unveiled Seth's story (and Regine's, and Tomasz's), and we have been given an explanation (albeit leading to even more questions) of what this place is, and one (albeit ludicrous) of why it became a wasteland. Of course, if you think of this book as a satire/social critique (among other things), the sci-fi/dystopian aspect of the story makes sense. But this is not what MTT is about. Allegedly, the purpose of this book is to deliver a message of hope and empowerment - which is what the title was doing all along. In a way, MTT is, indeed, a journey of self-discovery and a coming-of-age tale, masquerading as an afterlife (at first) and sci-fi (eventually) novel. But here's the thing: if characters start doubting their very existence - or the author sets up the book in a way that they have a valid reason to do so in the first place - they end up becoming props to convey a message. It's still next to impossible not to love them, but the love becomes tainted. Mind you, this novel has the mother of all the open endings, so it's very possible that everything that happens in it is NOT REAL. And in end, we don't have a clue what's supposed to be real or not. OK, I got it: that's not the point of the story - Ness makes it very clear. And yet. Usually, I'm all for books that don't have spelled-out endings, or where you can't exactly feel the ground. But I can usually rely on my characters - which doesn't happen here. And mind you (again) - I sort of love this book anyway. And I love its people. That's why I'm all the more angry that they don't even know if they're real. That's why, even if my heart aches, I can't bring myself to give this book 4 whole stars.
That being said - I've read it four times already (because I hoped to understand it better),'s beautiful...🤦‍♀️

For quotes from this book click here.
For more books that defy categories click here.


  1. I just attempted my first Patrick Ness! It was And the Ocean Was Our Sky, but it didn't work for me. I didn't really understand the point he was trying to make by reversing the Moby Dick narrative, because the whales themselves acted very human. They even strapped harpoons to their fins, and I cannot wrap my head around how they would accomplish something like that.

    I only lasted a few chapters and then offered it up on Twitter. I hate that this one ended with something that was impossible to believe... I'm okay with suspending some belief, but it has to work for the story.

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?

    1. The book you read seems weird enough LOL. I looked it up doesn't give me read-me vibes. I can see how it may get boring, too. It's a pity, because the man can write, and if this book is any proof, he excels at male teen characterisation.

  2. I have only read one book by Ness, and it was sort of odd. Entertaining, but odd.

    1. Which one was that? I always go for odd...but as I said in my review, I need at least the characters to help me suspend disbelief LOL.

  3. I've owned this novel for YEARS... but I never seem to be in the mood for it. (Shamefully, I actually took it to high school with me on two separate occasions... and then didn't pick it up, just carried it around all day haha.)

    I have read two novels by Ness so far - A Monster Calls, which is beautiful, so well-written and creative (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED), and The Rest of Us Just Live Here, which was... weird. It was annoying that some parts of it were excellent - e.g. the depiction of mental health - but other aspects were so boring or, again, weird.

    It makes me sad that you didn't fully adore this, but it's great that you love the characters nonetheless. I'm not sure how I'll feel about what you described - I'm usually all for unique and peculiar things, so who knows, this might work for me. But then again, it's not like you dislike those things, so I might dislike it too. ANYHOW, fantastic review Roby!

    Veronika @ The Regal Critiques

    1. Quote: "I'm usually all for unique and peculiar things, so who knows, this might work for me. But then again, it's not like you dislike those things, so I might dislike it too."
      LOL, I was mean, wasn't I? I basically wrote half my review like "this is a gorgeous book that will give you all the feels" and the other half like "this book has done evil things to me and I won't give it 4 stars, let alone 5" 😂. But that was the absolute truth. And it's not like I disliked the book - I'm glad I read it, and I will read it again one day. Only, it's a bit too meta for my tastes - though I can love metafiction done right to pieces.
      All this doesn't help much, I know 🙄.

      Thank you hon!

  4. I've known about Ness since The Knife of Never Letting Go came out, but wasn't interested in his works until couple of years later. I finally finished my first one of his books, A Monster Calls, a few weeks ago and was blown away. I definitely want to read more of his stuff, but I'm not sure which one I want to pick up next. I was going to start the Chaos Walking trilogy, but this adds one more consideration to the mix.

    1. More Than This was my first Ness book, and as I said, the writing didn't disappoint - quite the contrary. I've heard great things about A Monster Calls, but I'm hesitant to pick it up because it's a cancer book, and someone seems to think it kind of exploits the issue...


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