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? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighbourhood around his old house is overgrown, covered in dust, and completely abandoned. What’s going on? And why is it that whenever he closes his eyes, he falls prey to vivid, agonizing memories that seem more real than the world around him? Seth begins a search for answers, hoping that he might not be alone, that this might not be the hell he fears it to be, that there might be more than just this...
This book was incredible. I'm not sure what I expected, other than to be entertained, with The Rest of Us Just Live Here as my other other impression of Ness. More Than This was much heavier and, well, there was more to it. Heh. More Than This opens with the main character, Seth, dying. It's a pretty intense and graphic scene and feels very final except that it's the start of the book.
Seth wakes up in a place that resembles his childhood home except that the town is empty and everything in it has deteriorated to almost nothing. He assumes he's in hell and most of the story is about him trying, with varying levels of success, to work out what's going on. The book parcels out information in very discrete packets, with little foreshadowing to warn us of what's coming. As a result, while I'd very much like to talk about some of the later developments of the book, I don't think I can without spoilers. (Especially, y'know, when it comes to the ending.)
The title is very much the theme of the book. Seth is always questioning what's going on and even the reader is never 100% sure of how real some things are. That's what makes it such a fascinating and thoughtful read. We slowly discover the world with Seth (with some level of uncertainty) and also learn about Seth's life — and the lives of those around him — in bits and pieces. There were a lot of revelations that turned everything around throughout the book. I really enjoyed how the story took a different turn every so often.
More Than This is an excellent YA novel that I highly recommend to YA fans and speculative fiction fans. It's a pretty heavy read, dealing with some difficult issues — coming out in a hostile environment, suicide, child abuse, death — but very enjoyable. One of my favourite books of the year.
5 / 5 stars
First published: 2013
Format read: Audiobook (Bolinda Audio)
Source: Library via BorrowBox app