Okay so this is an interesting one to review.
I’m not going to tell you what this book’s about. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Because I can’t without spoiling it.
I’ve been reading children’s and young adult fiction – professionally – for eighteen years. And this is the sad, secret song of every librarian – there’s nothing that surprises us. We can pretty much always guess where a story is going, even if the how is a bit fuzzy. It doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy what we read, but it’s simply that we’ve read so much, we’re either tuned in to the author’s wavelength, or know the conventions of the genre – and how to subvert them – inside out.
And then along comes Patrick Ness and blows me away.
He’s an absolute genius and he SHOULD have won the Carnegie for More Than This. His Chaos Walking trilogy is mind-blowing and remains my absolute favourite science fiction series for teenagers of all time. He treats his readers with utter respect and weaves a vibrant tapestry of challenging ideas and themes with words that are so precise, so cutting, you feel them – like a gentlest caress or the most sudden, violent punch. He is an author that can and will surprise you.
Discussing this novel with a colleague today we both felt the same – reeling with the shock and the perfection of it, you can’t promote this book in the normal way. If only, we lamented, the cover was more eye-catching. But then how could you design a book cover for something so surprising, without hinting at what’s within? It does make a kind of sense by the end, but ignore the cover, and just read it, as the quote from John Green so rightly says.
Patrick Ness, I salute you.
It takes a lot to surprise a librarian. And More Than This really does live up to, and surpass, the promise of it’s title.
Walker Books, 2014, ISBN 9781406350487