Posted in Recommendations

Patrick Ness – Author Appreciation and How To Get Started

“Adam would have to get the flowers himself.”

First line in Release by Patrick Ness

I have counted Patrick Ness among my favorite authors for quite a few years now since I first dove into his Chaos Walking trilogy. Ness has been writing novels, and even a few screenplays, since 2003, and is mainly known for his Young Adult works. His books have earned him several awards, including two Carnegie Medals.

So what is it that he does so well? If you ask me, it’s a lot of things, of course, but mostly the very emotional way he writes his characters. He will transport the reader into the mind of the character and will not only make you see their reasonings and motivations but will make you understand them as well. Even when the character isn’t necessarily the “good guy”. But this is especially important as a few of his books feature a protagonist with mental health issues. He’s often showing the how and the why behind these struggles.

What you also need to know about Ness is that he creates some very unique and original stories. You won’t find the most generic tropes in his books, and if you do, it’s only because he’s decided to take a creative spin on it like in “The Rest of Us Just Live Here” where we follow a group of ordinary teenagers who are living their lives around the ‘Chosen Ones’.
This brings me to the topic of how most of his books can be said to be contemporaries or at least give off a contemporary feel, but they all have a sci-fi or fantasy twist to them. To me, that is part of why his books feel so unique. His imagination and how he uses these twists are what keep me guessing all the way through.

Finally, we have his writing, which really is what makes him one of the absolute best YA authors out there. It is both beautiful without being purple prose and smart in the way that it allows the readers to think for themselves. In other words, it’s simple and to the point. His writing is also why I think many of his books will work for readers who primarily read adult books and wants to try out some YA. Patrick Ness is a great choice to start with.

Below I have a list of all of his works with links to Goodreads in case you’re interested in a synopsis. After that, I’m going to try and recommend which book to start with if you’re completely new to the author.

Books

The Crash of Hennington (2003)Adult

Topics I Know Nothing About (2004)Short Story Collection

The Chaos Walking Trilogy (2008-2010) – Young Adult
The Knife of Never Letting Go
The Ask and the Answer
Monsters of Men

A Monster Calls (2011)Young Adult

The Crane Wife (2013)Adult

More Than This (2013)Young Adult

The Rest of Us Just Live Here (2015)Young Adult

Release (2017)Young Adult

And the Ocean Was Our Sky (2018)Young Adult/Graphic Novel

Burn (2020)Young Adult

Where to Start Reading Patrick Ness

Before I start recommending books to start with, I will highlight that I haven’t read his adult books or the graphic novel, so I naturally won’t be recommending those. This will only focus on his YA novels.

Which book of his fits best for you is, of course, very much down to personal preference. I wouldn’t say that there is a wrong place to start so if you’ve found a synopsis you think sounds extremely cool, then I would say just go for it. If you on the other hand is completely lost, here are some recommendations based on your reading tastes:

You like SFF:

🥇 Chaos Walking trilogy – An entire village of only men that can hear each other’s thoughts. Every. Single. Thought. The Mayor keeps secrets and a girl shows up.

🥈 Burn – Dragons that co-exist with humans in a 1950’s Washington to the extent that they have a cult-following. Prejudice still exists, and a prophecy might destroy everything.

You like contemporaries:

🥇 The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Those Chosen Ones can really mess up other people’s lives with their chosen-one-ness. A guy just wants to finish high school and deal with his OCD.

🥈 Release – A book that shows you just how many problems you can have in a single day. A boy from a religious family deals with being gay and life in general, and there is a ghost.

You like something sad:

🥇 A Monster Calls – Prepare yourself for an ugly-cry. A monster shows up at a boy’s window to teach us all how to deal with life when a loved one suffers from a long-term illness.

You like something uplifting:

🥇 Release – A book that shows you just how many problems you can have in a single day, but also how to overcome them. A boy from a religious family deals with being gay and life in general, and there is a ghost.

🥈 The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Those Chosen Ones can really mess up other people’s lives with their chosen-one-ness. A guy just wants to finish high school and deal with his OCD.

You like something weird:

🥇 More Than This – A boy wakes up and has no idea what’s going on and neither should you when starting the book.

🥈 Chaos Walking trilogy – An entire village of only men that can hear each other’s thoughts. Every. Single. Thought. The Mayor keeps secrets and a girl shows up.

In case I haven’t made it clear, I love Patrick Ness and his amazing YA stories. This was a post that hopefully managed to help you figure out if he’s also an author for you. Let me know what you think in the comments.




Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Burn by Patrick Ness

On a cold Saturday evening in early 1957 – the very day, in fact, that Dwight Eisenhower took the oath of office for the second time as President of the United States of America – Sarah Dewhurst waited with her father in the parking lot of the Chevron gas station for the dragon he’d hired to help on the farm.”

First line in Burn by Patrick Ness

Title: Burn

Author: Patrick Ness

Published: June 2nd 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy

My rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Buzzwords: Dragons, 1950’s America, racism

Synopsis: Sarah Dewhurst and her father, outcasts in their little town of Frome, Washington, are forced to hire a dragon to work their farm, something only the poorest of the poor ever have to resort to.

The dragon, Kazimir, has more to him than meets the eye, though. Sarah can’t help but be curious about him, an animal who supposedly doesn’t have a soul, but who is seemingly intent on keeping her safe.

Because the dragon knows something she doesn’t. He has arrived at the farm with a prophecy on his mind. A prophecy that involves a deadly assassin, a cult of dragon worshippers, two FBI agents in hot pursuit—and somehow, Sarah Dewhurst herself.

Goodreads


For this review, I’ve decided to go back to my old style review format where I share my likes and dislikes about the book in a few headlines and then give you my overall thoughts in the end. We’re starting with the negatives to end on the positives. Note that since I gave this book 5 stars, the dislikes are not my personal dislikes, but aspects about the book that I imagine other readers might not enjoy as much.

  • A Not So Epic Story

This book might feature dragons, but it isn’t epic fantasy. The atmosphere of the entire book gives off more of a small-town-vibe than grand fire-breathing dragon fights.

  • The Ending

Obviously not going to say much here other that I can see how it might not be a universally loved ending.

  • The Writing

Ness’ writing is impeccable as always. For some reason, I keep being surprised by his ability to make me care about whatever topic he wants me to care about. For example (and I know this might have me kicked out of the fantasy reader community), I don’t care about dragons. Only when Patrick Ness writes them apparently.

I also really like how he has a very subtle way of writing. Not everything is explained in great detail so he allows his readers to think for themselves and fill in the gaps. This is also why I want to recommend Ness to readers who usually don’t read YA. Burn is the kind of book that’s primarily categorized as YA because the characters are young, not because the writing or the themes are too youthful.

  • A Bunch of Great Characters

We follow quite a few characters in this book when you consider how short it actually is (382 pages). I love all of them! Even the ‘bad guys’ are written in a way where you understand them when you absolutely despise them. The rest of the characters are incredibly diverse and clearly portray distinct and well-rounded personalities. Several of them go through some interesting moral dilemmas throughout the story, which very much was the thing that kept me hooked.

  • Relevant Social Commentary

It takes place in 1957 in America which means that even though the racism of that time isn’t the main focus of the story, it’s still naturally there. The main character, Sarah, has a black mother and a white father and the book portrays multiple instances where that is a problem for her. As we know, those scenarios didn’t stop in 1957.

There is also quite a bit of LGBTQ+ representation in there although none specifically identify themselves. Two of them are very clearly gay, though. Another thing that wasn’t popular in the 1950’s.

  • Short “Chapters”

Now by ‘chapters’ I don’t actually mean chapters. I mean that it switches point of view quite often within each chapter. You just get these somewhat short scenes (not too short), before we move on to the next one. I really like this kind of storytelling. It gives a certain speed to the story so that you’re never bored with a POV.

I was pleasantly surprised by the book. The synopsis is pretty vague (on purpose), so the only reason I picked it up was because of Patrick Ness and my determination to read all of his books. This book proves that I can continue doing that.

The book’s strongest trait is that it is so well written while also manages to be thought-provoking. It portrays a historic setting but never fails to be relevant to our current society.

It’s a book I highly recommend, especially if you like a character-focused, low fantasy story with small-town-vibes and a pinch of dragon.