I picked up More Than This because I recently enjoyed A Monster Calls. This book, like Monster, is about a young man learning how to handle life’s major hurdles. That, though, is where their similarities end. More than This opens with Seth drowning in the ocean and the story really begins when he opens his eyes after death…
More Than This is darker than A Monster Calls in many ways. For readers who are concerned about the maturity level of themes in this book: there are some (short) scenes of physical abuse, non-graphic GLBT teen sex, teen suicide, brief moments of bullying, extremely brief nudity (both male and female), and a short masturbation bit. On the other hand, there’s a lot of empowering elements in here too. There’s a very strong, young, black female heroine, a plucky, brainy, Polish sidekick, and some really trippy depictions of reality itself. The GLBT relationship is healthy and non-abusive. The friendships that develop between the main characters are real and beautiful. Depending on the young adult reading the book, I’d say 14+ might be a good age for this one.
I loved the ambiguity of Seth’s situation in the afterlife. No spoilers here, but that was my favorite part, the “what the heck is going on here” moments that Ness kept handing to me. Read it and you’ll see what I mean in mere pages. Patrick Ness is at his strongest when he’s writing his way around painful emotions, which there are piles of in this book. He’s at his lowest during the first part of More Than This because of the pacing. This starts out seriously slowly, but if you can make it through the first section, things pick up considerably afterwards.
Some of my favorite moments: “Is this a dream? he thinks, the words coming to him slowly, thickly, as if from a great distance. The last dream before death?” pg 13 ebook
“He looks out toward the darkened sitting room and wonders what he’s supposed to do here. Is there a goal? Something to solve? Or is he just supposed to stay here forever? Is that what hell is? Trapped forever, alone, in your worst memory? It makes a kind of sense.” pg 31 ebook
Seth’s relationship with his parents is pretty messed up, which is very sad, really: “His mother made a sign with her hands of sarcastic surrender, then stared firmly at the ceiling. His father turned to look at him, and Seth realized with a shock how rare it was for his father to look him straight in the eye. It was like having a statue suddenly ask you for directions. pg 97 ebook
My favorite character was Tomasz. He has wisdom far beyond his age:“Tomasz shrugs. “People ask for what they need in different ways. Sometimes by not even asking for it at all.” pg 149 ebook
The heroine: “People see stories everywhere,” Regine says. “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.” She glances back at Seth. “We have to lie to ourselves to live. Otherwise, we’d go crazy.” pg 159 ebook. Very true.
One last passage, for my husband, who argues with people on the internet far too much and who came to mind here: “And that’s what the Internet age has done for us,” his mother says, sitting down. “Anything you don’t like is automatically disgusting and anyone who may like it themselves is an idiot. So much for a world full of different viewpoints, huh?” pg 319 ebook.
If you enjoyed More Than This, you may like A Monster Calls even more (I know I did) or try The Last One by Alexandra Oliva (a book written for adults, but a mature young adult would probably enjoy it too). Thank you for reading!