Friday, 29 May 2015

More than This – Carnegie Shadowing – review

Expect some big questions and prepare yourself for a bumpy ride when you dive in Patrick Ness’s ‘More than This’ – a novel which will leave you with more questions than answers, but also, is a book that will surely make you think. Oh, and terrify you.

The opening is mysterious as Seth discovers himself in a world he can’t explain – similar to one he thinks he remembers, but not the one he thinks he just left, when he thinks he died. (Yes, it's going to be that complicated.)

He seems to now be in a place he left when he was a child; before he moved to a different country. But that’s not even the main mystery.

The question really troubling Seth is: Where is everyone else?

From the intriguing and enticing cover, you know right from the start that you are being served up something very special.

Patrick Ness weaves three complex and intriguing threads through this book in a masterful piece of narrative structure.

The three interwoven stories – the story of Seth’s ‘other’ life and what led to him being here is told in flashback; the story that goes even further back, to when his family moved out of his childhood home; and the ‘where am I now and how did I get here?’, all add up to something really pretty special.

The story is part mystery, part thriller, part sc-fi, part contemporary novel, and part a story of the emotional consequences of a taboo same-sex relationship. But each is handled with skill so you are drawn more and more into Seth's world. The bleakness of the difficulties he has faced in his young life, plus the struggle for survival today, on top of making sense of his current situation.

It is no less than brilliant that the author manages to achieve all this, relentlessly moving from one storyline to another, dropping in clues to the back-story of each of the story threads, making you feel torn as you have to leave one story to plunge into another. Yet the reader never loses place. Each thread is equally engrossing, each in its own way. Each character and sub-plot each take you into deeper and darker places.

It’s an emotional rollercoaster, but the contemporary action is laced with menace. The baddie ‘The Driver’ a robot who seems unstoppable and un-killable is truly terrifying, punctuating an emotional story with heart-stopping threat and action.

The reader never knows what to expect next and along the way, if you take time to stop and think, the journey takes you to some terrifying places, and not just the sci-fi action scenes. This philosophical novel poses big questions. 

Is it better to live a life sheltered by the sometime awfulness of reality – or better to face the truth? Is the worst nightmare the one that’s real, or the imaginary one you create for yourself?

I was absolutely blown away by this book and I would love it to win. Such a big novel. So many questions. I enjoyed it totally on an adult level - it is really a timeless book that appeals to all ages.

My only reservation, really, is whether it is really a novel for children? I think you need a certain maturity to fully appreciate this novel on all its levels. I think many children doing the shadowing will love this - particularly the action scenes and the mystery, but I kind of also hope they might want to come back to it and read it again when they are a little older.

Is it a great novel? I would say so – unquestionably Yes. Is it a great novel for children? That is a much trickier one. 

We shall await the judges' final decision.

We asked Patrick Ness 'What is your favourite thing about your shortlisted book?' Here is what he had to say:
"The cover.  I mean, you know, I'm proud of the book like I would be of a child I raised and sent out into the world, but haven't my publishers done an amazing job with the cover?  I feel very lucky."

Thank you Patrick Ness. I agree the cover is awesome, but it is only doing justice to a truly fantastic book. 

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