Teenage Seth drowns in the chilly waters of the Pacific Northwest only to awaken, feeble and dehydrated, in the long abandoned house of his British childhood. Trying to make sense of the inexplicable world in which he’s found himself—the entire town appears lifeless—Seth struggles to find the basic necessities he needs to survive. He meets teenage Regine and young Tomasz on one of his scrounging forays, and they warn him about the Driver, a menacing individual who seems intent on hunting all three of them down. They also begin to explain the world in which Seth has found himself, and he mightily resists what they tell him. As more and more proof presents itself, Seth is forced to revisit painful moments from his long-ago childhood, and recent events that sent him walking into the ocean intent on dying. If he believes Regine and Tomasz, then much of Seth’s life is a lie. If he rejects what they tell him, then they are the lie, and he’s come to care too much about them to believe that, either. Masterful rather than manipulative, the ambiguity of Patrick Ness’s wholly original and compelling novel gives readers a richly developed array of possibilities but leaves the meaning-making up to them when it comes to divining the situational truth of Seth’s story. But some truths exist at every point along the continuum of possibilities laid out or waiting to be imagined: Meaningful relationships matter, and a life is so much more than can be measured or felt at any single moment in time. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
1. How does the author explore the idea expressed by the title, that life is “more than this,” throughout the story? What about the importance of memory and of human connection? What are examples of details and scenes through which you see these ideas developed separately and in relation to one another?
2. Which world do you believe is real? What evidence do you have to support your idea? Do you think it is important to determine which world is “real”?