From two-time Carnegie Medal winner Patrick Ness comes an enthralling and provocative new novel chronicling the life — or perhaps afterlife — of a teen trapped in a crumbling, abandoned world.
A boy named Seth drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying, his bones breaking, his skull dashed upon the rocks. So how is he here? And where is this place? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighborhood around his old house is overgrown, covered in dust, and completely abandoned. What’s going on? And why is it that whenever he closes his eyes, he falls prey to vivid, agonizing memories that seem more real than the world around him? Seth begins a search for answers, hoping that he might not be alone, that this might not be the hell he fears it to be, that there might be more than just this…
I’ll be honest, I was a little bit hesitant at first to continue to read this book because I didn’t really get into it until halfway through. BUT, I kept reading and I’m glad I did. It’s a good book. If you’ve ever seen Bruce Willis’ 2009 movie, Surrogates, then you can imagine what this book is about.
It’s not your usual death by suicide Young Adult book. It’s something MORE. Much more. It’s an interesting twist on a surrealist, dystopian-type of world. Seth is the main focus/character of this world and you follow him through him figuring out what in the hell is going on. In flashbacks (which I mostly hate when books do the whole flashback stuff but in this case, he’s getting his memory back so it fit the scenario), you understand how Seth became to be in this ‘world that not’s a world’ it’s more of a hell because it’s certainly no heaven. Seth wakes up, nude with only a few bandages covering him. As his head starts to clear, he remembers what happened and why it happened. He tried to commit suicide because of pictures that went around with a friend of his. Then he woke up here- wherever here is. He’s not sure what this place is, only that it resembles the small house he grew up in when he was younger in England. Before what happened to his brother took place, before his brother became everything to his parents, especially his mom. Before he tried to kill himself.
Seth starts to search for food, water, and clothes. He starts to wander outside and finds a little store where he loads up on canned foods. One day while out, he runs into a couple more kids. That’s when they all start putting together what is REALLY happening. This world, is the real world and the world they thought was real is only what they want them to see. Seth and his friends figure out that there are people hooked up to machines that control their “world” and everything they think is real. There’s also a man, who’s the Keeper of the people, who tries to capture them in order to put them back in their coffins for hook-up to the world.
This is where it kinda lost me- he wants to hook them up in order for them to go back to the world where they died…yeah, that makes sense. But then you find out, that Seth’s brother really died and they brought him back so his parents could deal easier with his death- it wasn’t him in the he’s brought back to life but more of a figment that people can interact with but his smarts aren’t there, he grows but his mental age stays the same as when he died. (yeah, it took me forever to analyze this book to understand it cause I’m pretty sure Ness’s whole point was to confuse you with this idea). So you have ‘Them’ who control this and the Keeper who takes care of these people in their hooked up coffins in the prison, and you just are supposed to accept the fact that this world we live in is something better than if we were really awake in a wasteland of nothing that resembles hell. The way they try and save the world is unbelievable and just doesn’t make sense. I mean this book will give you headache from all the thinking you have to do to keep up. It’s an emotional roller coaster of WTF & OMG, with a little bit of sadness and happiness thrown in.
I liked this book but I had to wrap my head around the whole idea for a while. I don’t think I fully understood the whole idea until after I finished reading the book, put it down, and started to actually really think about what Patrick Ness was saying. It’s an interesting take on death, life, and the in-between but confusing. The ending was disappointing to me as well.
Even though I told you what sort of, kind of, happens- you need to read the book to fully understand what is going on. There’s so much vivid detail in the book that reading it is the only way to make sense of what I’m saying.
4 out of 5 stars.