More Than This, by Patrick Ness (Candlewick, Sept.2013, YA)
Seth is drowning when we meet him, smashed against rocks by the brutally cold waves of the Pacific North West. But then he wakes...and finds himself weak and naked outside the house in England where he grew up, before tragedy drove his family to move to the US. The house and town seem to have been deserted for years, and he is all alone in a silent world choked in dust.
During the day, he survives on canned goods scavenged from abandoned shops. And at night, the dreams come, and Seth vividly relives his memories of the recent past, back when he was a high school kid, with a group of best friends, one of whom was a boy who was much more than friend.
He does not know what has happened, he does not know what is real. All he knows is that somehow, somewhere, there must be more than this...a feeling he has had for years, even before he went down to the ocean.
And there is. But the answers, such as they are, don't come easily (either to Seth or to the reader).
Um. Can't say anything more about the story, because it's a book in which the reader should follow Seth's journey with him. But I can say that this is one with great appeal to readers of speculative fiction that asks hard philosophical questions, readers who enjoy not knowing, and slowly realizing, readers who value character over easy resolution of plot threads, and, more mundanely, readers very interested in stories of kids surviving sans grownups in abandoned worlds (guess which part I liked best!).
It is both moving and, to me at least, frustrating. Frustrating is perhaps the wrong word; I want one that conveys the sort of feeling that comes from being in a bad dream that slowly and steadily condenses into something more, taking its sweet time...and then, in true Patrick Ness style, zinging the reader's emotions and ratcheting up the tension, without any hand-holding.
But it was somewhat frustrating in the more standard sense of the word...I felt I was being asked to accept things that weren't sufficiently supported by the premises and world-building. For instance, even in the most empty of worlds, I think there would still be insects. I had just a few too many little bleated "but...." moments for me to truly love this one.
Which is not to say that this isn't a fine, memorable, powerful book, because it is.
Disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher