By Patrick Ness
Available now from Candlewick (Llewellyn)
A boy is in the ocean, tossed about and eventually bashed upon the rocks. He then wakes up in his childhood home in England, not America. From there, he begins to piece together who he is and what's going on. Every time he dreams, he sees his memories. Thus, he remembers that his name is Seth and assumes he's in hell.
You see, something terrible happened to Seth's younger brother back when their family lived in England. Seth has felt guilty his entire life. He's also struggling with memories of his friends and his secret boyfriend. Then his ruminations are interrupted when he comes across two other people.
I flip-flopped back and forth between really liking MORE THAN THIS and being meh about it. I felt that as more was explained, the book became sillier and less appealing. But then Ness partially saved it by upping the ambiguity about whether the supposed explanation for what was happening was correct. And honestly, I prefer to believe that it isn't, because it really doesn't make much sense.
However, there were several aspects that worked wonderfully. The flashbacks are all top-notch, particularly the ones dealing with Seth and Gudmund's relationship. Regine and Tomascz are good characters, although noticeably less developed than Seth. (How can they not be, when the entire first part of MORE THAN THIS is his inner monologue?) They both have their own traumas that they are working through.
MORE THAN THIS is an unusual book, with some sections that are very philosophical and others that are horrific. It's wonderfully written, as can be expected of Ness. I don't think it's his best book. However, while it might be messy, but it is also ambitious, and I always respect ambition. I think the best parts of MORE THAN THIS outweigh its weaknesses.