Genre: Young Adult
Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Here is the boy, drowning.”
A boy drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments. He dies.
Then he wakes, naked and bruised and thirsty, but alive.
How can this be? And what is this strange deserted place?
As he struggles to understand what is happening, the boy dares to hope. Might this not be the end? Might there be more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife?
From multi-award-winning Patrick Ness comes one of the most provocative and moving novels of our time.
The opening chapter to this book is one of my all-time favourite openings. When I first heard about this book, I went on Amazon and clicked ‘look inside’ and I read the first chapter. Ever since then, I’ve carried that opening with me and it has made me want to read the rest of the book. Well…I’ve only just got round to reading it and it was well worth the wait!
Before reading this, I hadn’t read any books by Patrick Ness before, but he was one of those writers that I’d fancied reading for a while. This is a great book to start off with if you’ve never read any of his work, because even though it is a near 500 page book, it will keep you turning those pages and devouring it in the time it would take you to read a much shorter book.
At the beginning, our main character Seth dies by drowning, but after the event, he wakes up and is seemingly alive and in some kind of afterlife. Early on, I found myself gasping and becoming wide eyed and excited by how the plot was moving along. The writing is incredible. It’s not hard to read, but it really compels you to read on and on. This book has impact…but I feel that there’s only so much of that impact you can take until the effect starts to wear off.
There were instances throughout that made me think ‘wow!’ and ‘No!!’ and ‘oh my god’ but these moments are most intense early on in the book. I didn’t expect the plot to go where it did, and I almost didn’t want it to go that way, but the more I read, the more I started to accept it, but there’s a part of me that thinks I built up my expectations too much, because of how long it took me to read the rest of the novel after treating myself to the opening. So really, I guess I should give this book 4 stars, but despite that, I’ve bumped it up to 5 stars because I just cannot get over how brilliant the plot is written, and how distinctive the characters are.
Plus, this is one of the first YA novels I’ve read that isn’t written in the first person! Finally! I didn’t think such books existed. I don’t mind first person narratives, but when it comes to YA, the majority of them are written in the first person, and I tend to get fed up and want a different style. Patrick Ness has written this book amazingly well, it’s a fine achievement.
Another point that disappointed me was the story-line between Seth and Gudmund. I absolutely LOVE them, but I just wish their story had progressed differently. It might have been an obvious choice, and maybe a bit cliche (?) but it would have been satisfying. But if you reach the end of this book, I think you can just accept what is, and not question it too much. The thing I’ve found is that the story is somewhat self-aware, and therefore I think Ness is extremely aware of every work, every sentence, every nuance and implication included in this novel. So whatever criticisms I have, I think they are overruled by the message contained throughout this book, particularly at the end.
“Oblivion is purgatorial and grey. He is passably conscious, not asleep but not quite awake either, as if disconnected from everything, unable to move or think or receive input, able only to exist.”
“As far as Seth knew, no one even suspected. And that made it feel like the most private thing that could ever happen, like a whole secret universe all on its own.”
“The ache of missing Gudmund is so great he can barely stand it. Of missing how safe being with him felt, how easy it was, how funny and relaxed. Of missing the physical stuff, of course, but more than that, the intimacy, the closeness. Of missing just being held like that, cared for. Maybe loved.”
“Haven’t you ever felt like there has to be more? Like there’s more out there somewhere, just beyond your grasp, if you could only get to it…”
Link to the book on Goodreads: