Oh boy. Fans of Patrick Ness are going to eat this one up! The book opens with the protagonist’s death. Seth is in the ocean, drowning and freezing. And then he is smashed into the rocks, which snaps his spinal cord, killing him. That, friends, is just the prologue. Time passes. Seth wakes up naked except for some bandages on the sidewalk outside his childhood home in England. It’s exactly as he remembers it from his youth, with one huge difference: everything is abandoned. Weeds have taken over lawns; dust lays thick in the houses; even the non-perishable food has, well, perished. People? None to be seen. Seth is obviously perplexed. He remembers dying. Vividly. So why is he here, in England? His family had moved to America years ago after tragic circumstances. But the house he’s in now has artifacts that he knows made the trip to America and should not still be in England. He can’t figure it out. All he knows is that he doesn’t want to sleep, because sleep brings with it memories. Memories Seth can’t bear to face. He should be dead, so is this hell? The afterlife? Something else entirely?
This is a very, very unusual book. There are essentially two narratives going on throughout: Seth awake and Seth asleep. Seth’s waking world is every bit as disarming to the reader as it is to Seth and the reader is not made any more aware of why Seth has awakened where he has or why he’s alive (?) again in the first place. Seth’s memories are both beautiful and painful, often at the same time. The dream-memories fill in the story of how Seth came to be in the ocean and each one reveals important facets of Seth’s life. I was hooked from the first page and read breathlessly, trying to figure out just what is going on. This likely won’t be a book for everyone, but for those who are looking for something decidedly different, this is just the ticket.
Disclaimer: I received this ARC from the publisher at the ALA Annual Conference (and got it signed!!!). I am in no way compensated for my review. This title comes out in September 2013.