YA A to Z: Patrick Ness
Today is brought to you by the letter N and the number 2. Actually, I just made that number part up. I’m having Sesame Street flashbacks.
I discovered Patric Ness last year as a judge for the Cybils. Wait, let me back up. I was of course aware of the author Patrick Ness before last year’s Cybils, I just hadn’t read any of his work yet. I know, it’s hard to believe that I – the dystopian lover – had not yet read The Chaos Walking trilogy, but I hadn’t and we’re all going to just have to live with that. I had them in my collection, of course, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading them yet. I hang my head in shame. But one of the things I love about the Cybils is that we can all find new titles and authors that we may not yet have explored.
My first Patrick Ness book was More Than This. It is a complex speculative fiction title that challenges readers to read closely, think deeply, and asks profound questions. I’m not going to lie, I had to read it twice because I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on the first time. But I liked that I had to read it twice; I liked that it didn’t talk down to teens but fully expected them to just dive in because Ness acknowledges that teen readers can have deep thoughts, intellect, and very dark lives. On occasion various article writers – you know, the ones bemoaning children’s and YA lit – have suggested that Ness’s works are too violent or too dark. I follow him on Twitter and he has great discussions there about this topic. He doesn’t look down upon his readers or coddle them, he writes the books that need to be written and trusts that they will find the right audience. It’s a tactic that hasn’t failed him yet.
In 2011 Patrick Ness won the Carnegie Medal for Children’s/YA Fiction and in a piece about him Nicollete Jones says, “He does not believe in boundaries for books: he advocates reading everything, including trash, and thinks it is often enriching when one genre leaks into another . . .”
That same article goes on to describe The Chaos Walking trilogy: Chaos Walking is set in the future, on another planet like our own, but where men and animals can hear one anotehr’s thoughts (though dogs’ reflections are limited). Women’s thoughts are silent. It has, particularly in the first book, the atmosphere of a Western – a boy on horseback, a bad guy wanting small-town power – and it involves a love story, between teenagers Todd and Viola, and big themes including moral responsibility, attitudes to women, political deception and, notably in Monsters of Men, the nature of war. (http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/whole-truth-for-teenagers-patrick-nesss-novels-have-attracted-acclaim-awards–and-censure-2301674.html)
More Than This is a philosophical novel that explores the meaning, and nature, of life as well as relationships. It’s very Matrixy in some of its imagery, which is a high compliment. More Than This begins with a boy drowning (it’s a brutally well written scene). After his death, he wakes up to find himself in a world – the afterlife maybe? What follows is a surreal exploration of what it means to be alive, to be in love, to be a part of a family. The Tween once fell into the deep end of a pool, she was around 4 at the time, and I remember jumping in fully clothed as I watched her sink slowly onto the bottom of this pool. It was one of the more terrifying moments of my life. And reading More Than This, that opening scene, wrecked me. It was such a spot on depiction and tapped into that very primal moment of fear and I sobbed for days. That is not hyperbole. That’s how good I found Patrick Ness’s writing to be, he incapacitated me with emotion.
The publisher’s description for A Monster Calls, which is currently in movie production mode, reads as follows:
“The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.
But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…
This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.”
So here’s the deal, I was late to the party. But Patrick Ness is a word salad genius. His works will blow your mind and move you.
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#YAAtoZ Schedule: Week 1 4: A ; 5: B ; 6: C ; 7: D Week 2 10: E ; 11: F ; 12: G, H, I ; 13: J, K ; 14: L Week 3 17: M ; 18: N, O ; 19: P, Q ; 20: R, S ; 21: T Week 4 24: U ; 25: V, W ; 26: X ; 27: Y ; 28: Z
Filed under: YA A to Z
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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