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Book Review: More Than This by Patrick Ness

Before I tell you what this book is about, let me tell you about my experience reading it.  I read this book and basically thought: what the heck just happened here.  So I read it again.  Then I asked a friend to read it.  Then I found another friend who had read it and asked her tons of questions.  It took me a while to process what I thought about this book because I wasn’t sure that I understood what was happening in the book.  If I had to use one word to describe it it would be this: Surreallism.

About More Than This

A boy named Seth drowns in what I can only described as one of the most amazing scenes I have ever read.  It is visceral.  I cried.  A lot. Then he wakes up, seemingly not dead but in a very bizarre world.  Though the particulars of the world differ greatly, it seems most fitting to compare the situation as Matrix-like.  Or, surrealism.  Or trippy.  The rest of the book is basically a quest to figure out where Seth is and how to get back home, unless he is dead, which is also an important question.  In this other place where Seth is he meets two people who are going through the same thing as him.  Maybe together they can answer their questions?

More Than This is like opening door after door into a funhouse mirror.  But, because this is Patrick Ness, there is some fantastic discussion and insight behind each door about the meaning of life, love, and who we are.  Even in the times when I wasn’t sure what was happening, I recognized that I was reading greatness.  The details didn’t always matter – but the insight into the human condition did.  It was moving and profound, and very discussable.

Here’s the deal: You shouldn’t read reviews of this book.  You don’t want to be spoiled.  Also, there is no describing it.  None.  Also, the what – as I have mentioned – isn’t so much important as the how we get there, the discussion.  But the details along the way are amazing – there is this “character”, amazeballs.  And this scene, so visually freaking spectacular.

Final Thoughts

This book is glorious greatness – for the right readers – with a ton of what the heck is happening here.  It will blow your mind.  It will haunt you.  It will make you question what you think you know about reality.  There is a profound story within here about sexuality and love.  This is a haunting, touching exploration of life and death, the meaning of reality, and what we are willing to fight for.  Both PW and SLJ gave it starred reviews, deservedly.  Definitely and highly recommended. Publishes September 2013 from Candlewick Press. ISBN: 9780763662585.

Booktalk This: Teary Reads

As a teen (way back in the early 1990s), my friends and I sighed over a story about one our crushes when he was in 4th grade: that was the year his teacher read Where the Red Fern Grows to him and his classmates (including our storyteller). The whole class was overwhelmed by that books’ ending, including our crush, who put his head down on his desk to hide his tears. Sigh. Actually, I don’t know a single soul who has read (or been read) this book who hasn’t cried. Unless you are me, and have successfully avoided reading it simply because I don’t often want to sob through books if I can help it. I do know, however, that there are many readers out there who love a good book-induced cry, so this list is for you! 

My Sister’s Keeperby Jodi Picoult (Washington Square Press, 9780743454537). This book is an older read, but it’s a good one. Anna’s older sister, Kate, has leukemia, and as Anna was purposely born to be a genetic match to her sister, she’s spent all of her 13 years undergoing the same surgeries – when Kate needs bone marrow, Anna goes under the knife, too. But then, one day, Anna decides she’s had enough, hires a lawyer and sues her parents for control of her own body and any future medical procedures. But what does this mean for Kate’s health? Now, I sobbed through this book from a mother’s point-of-view, but making the sorts of decisions Anna does are pretty painful from a flat-out human being’s point-of-view. Fact: Picoult’s own son read this book, and was so devastated by the ending, he refused to talk to her for hours after. 
Anna is alive for one reason, to save her sister’s life.  Year after year she undergoes surgeries, tests, needles and more to save her sister’s life.  Until the day she decides she can’t do it any more and hires a lawyer.  If you knew that you could save your sister’s life, would you choose not to?
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Candlewick Press, 978-0763639310).  Todd is pretty miserable, living in his noisy, all-male town. When you can hear your neighbors’ thoughts, day and night, and quite a few of them seem to have gone more than a little crazy…it’s no wonder that Todd would rather wander the swamps with his annoying pup, Manchee, whose thoughts, unfortunately, are also audible. And then, one day he hears a pocket of nothing in the swamp. When he investigates, he discovers that pocket of silence is a girl. The Knife of Never Letting Go is one of those books that everyone everywhere seemed to be telling me to read, but I just didn’t. And then my book club read it. And I couldn’t put it down. And it made me SOB. It’ll make you cry, too, but it’ll also make you laugh, and make hold your breath with fear and tension. This one’s a keeper, for sure.
There are no girls. None.  And the men who live can hear one another’s thoughts.  The animals too.  One day Todd enters into the swamp and hears nothing, glorious silence.  It turns out this means only one thing: Todd has found a girl.
The Fault in our Stars by John Green (Dutton, 978-0525478812). Hazel is dying. She’s 16-years-old, she has cancer, and she is definitely going to die young. This she’s managed come to terms with, but it’s the people she’s leaving behind that weigh heaviest – how will her parents get through this? Her friends? That adorable new guy, Augustus? And, why, exactly, does she have to deal with all this? What good will a cancer support group do her, really? Why does she have to have cancer at all? Hazel is a completely lovely character, funny and heart-breaking, and the journey she takes you on WILL put a major dent in your Kleenex-fund.

Pretty much any book by Lurlene McDaniel (Delacorte Press). Lurlene McDaniel books have been around for a LONG time, and there’s a good reason for that: these books are depressing. Someone is dying of something in nearly every one of her books, and it’s often right after the main character falls deeply in love with his/her one true love. Now, I’m not spoiling any endings for you, since the point of her books isn’t necessarily the plot twist: it’s the very cathartic sob-inducing situations of the characters within. And I don’t have a particular title to suggest. I just recommend sitting down with a shelf of her books and reading the back cover blurbs to get a sense of which will make you cry the most. Just last week I asked one of our teen volunteers to pick out the saddest Lurlene McDaniel she could find. She came back with four.

And finally, Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (Bantam Dell, 978-0-553-27429-5). Seriously. If what you’re looking for is a cry, and haven’t yet read this classic about a boy and his two beloved hunting dogs, do it. Just make sure you’re in a safe space with plenty of tissues for your tears.  It’s a book with a dog, you know what is probably going to happen.

Karen would add Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson and If I Stay by Gayle Forman to this list.

Note: for some reason the graphics button isn’t working at the moment on Blogger.  I will go in and add pictures when it is fixed.