cover image More Than This

More Than This

Patrick Ness. Candlewick, $19.99 (480p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6258-5

Seth Wearing, age 16, dies in the opening pages of this complex, ambitious novel from Ness (A Monster Calls) and, arguably, that isn’t the worst thing that happens to him. After drowning, Seth awakens in the suburban London neighborhood where he lived before his family relocated to the Pacific Northwest. The old neighborhood is now a dust-covered ruin; there is no noise, no electricity, and, at first, not another soul around. Is this hell? A tortured dream? Seth’s search for understanding requires Ness to move between the unsettling present and Seth’s past, slowly revealing his sad childhood, his awful mother, and the bright spot in his young life—his relationship with schoolmate Gudmund. When even that romance ended in sorrow, Seth grasped for a reason to live. The Matrix-like science fiction elements of the story are somewhat fuzzy, and even the characters continually question the logic of the circumstances they are stuck in. But Ness’s exploration of big questions—specifically Seth’s yearning to find out if life will ever offer more than the rotten hand he’s been dealt—will provide solace for the right readers. Ages 14–up. (Sept.)