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.
Published by Candlewick Press, 2013