Review of “More Than This” by Patrick Ness


More Than This is an apt title for a book that is about more than it’s about. Because in the very beginning, Seth, a boy who is nearly 17, drowns in the ocean. He is dead, although his story is only beginning. But we don’t even know if Seth is actually dead, because what we learn is that there are many stories and layers of stories that make up reality, and what you want to believe is critical to what you think you know. As one of the characters says:

“‘People see stories everywhere… That’s what my father used to say. We take random events and we put them together in a pattern so we can comfort ourselves with a story, no matter how much it obviously isn’t true. .. We have to lie to ourselves to live. Otherwise, we’d go crazy.”

But it’s not even that simple. Sometimes, the stories we tell ourselves are actually quite bad, because they too can fill some need we have. As Seth observes, “you can die before you’re dead….”

Yet, what Seth eventually discovers is that “there’s always beauty, if you know where to look.” When you think there must be more to life than the crappy circumstances that pull you down, it turns out, you are probably right: you’ve just have got to know how to reinterpret your reality.

So how do you know what is “real” and what isn’t? Or what story will work out best for you? Seth’s new friend Regine advises, “Know yourself and go in swinging.” And that’s what Seth tries to do.

Evaluation: It’s hard to say much about this book without spoiling it. The overriding theme seems to be that we don’t really know what is true in our lives, because we all filter our experiences through our fears, wants, needs, and what has happened to us in the past. It is more important in the end to figure out what matters.

But there is so much more to the story than this. What role does/will online time play in our desire to reframe reality? Will we act to ameliorate climate change, or will we just stop seeing it? Are the traditional definitions of gender, love, and family still valid? How do we know what is important and what isn’t?

There are some very beautiful parts to this book, and some frustrating parts as well, because truth is messy, and fuzzy, and we don’t always understand life. But if we figure out how to see more, then even the ambiguity or fear or hurt can be folded into it and just maybe, there will be a chance for redemption.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by Candlewick Press, 2013


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14 Responses to Review of “More Than This” by Patrick Ness

  1. sandynawrot says:

    I think it sounds very confusing and maybe a little too cerebral for my tiny brain. I thought you threw this book across the room!!! I’m really torn over this one. I haven’t quite forgiven him for Manchee.

  2. I’m with Sandy – this sounds rather confusing! I do agree that we don’t always know what is true – hence two people will remember the same event differently – but wonder if I would get the nuances of the book.

    • The problem with discussing what happens is that (a) one wouldn’t want to spoil the book and (b) much of what “happens” is actually a function of what librarians and postmodernists call “the reader in the text.” That is, one’s interpretation will depend very much upon one’s own hermeneutical lenses. In a very meta way, this book about the fluidity of meaning depends on the reader to do a lot of the heavy lifting. This makes the book very thought-provoking, and excellent for engendering lively discussion.

  3. Beth F says:

    I guess I should finish the first Chaos Walking book before deciding on more Ness

  4. So I guess I need to add Patrick Ness to my list of authors to try…

  5. Brooke says:

    Been seeing this one around the blogosphere a lot recently and most are enjoying. I love Patrick Ness so this is a must read for me. I just think he’s such a capable writer even when the subject matter is confusing.

  6. Ti says:

    Is this book consider YA?

  7. Ana says:

    I like that reinterpretations of things, whatever they may be or not can be put into positive terms, like finding beauty where there may not be apparent. Thanks for the review, you piqued my curiousity

  8. Athira says:

    I really want to read this one even though I knew nothing about it. But after reading your review, I want to read it more. It seems to touch on topics that I love reading about.

  9. I just finished this book yesterday and although I really liked it, and it was one of those quick reads that I couldn’t put down, I wanted to know more. Which I guess is maybe the point in some way. That messiness of life that doesn’t always give us clear-cut answers.

    Upon finishing I set the book down and said “There’s got to be more!” without realizing how corny and appropriate it was to the book until after I’d already said it out loud.

    But really – I want a sequel! There were so many questions left unanswered.

  10. stacybuckeye says:

    The fact that it’s getting late and I just finished a glass of wine is probably contributing to that feeling that I’m not smart enough to read this book.

  11. aartichapati says:

    Gosh, this book is everywhere now! I don’t know if I am ready for another Ness story that will have me sobbing.

  12. I love the way this book never tells you exactly what’s happening. That’s sort of true of the Chaos Walking books as well — I still can’t decide whether I think the Mayor had good in him and the ability to act on that good — and is what I like so much about Patrick Ness. (Among other things.)

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