‘“You’ve just got to find a way to live there anyway”: Trauma, alienation, and empathy in Patrick Ness’s More Than This.’

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch


YA dystopian fiction has proven fertile ground for the exploration of traumatic events experienced by young people. This paper examines the representation of trauma in Patrick Ness’s contemporary YA novel More Than This (2014), which explores a range of traumas affecting young adults including suicide, child abuse, homophobia, and murder. It follows the protagonist Seth’s journey back into an estranged and depopulated version of his childhood home. Gradually, the novel uncovers a primary trauma (the ‘wounding’ of the protagonist’s brother), which took place in England in the past; and a secondary trauma (his own apparent death), which takes place in the United States in the present. Ness portrays this dual trauma in parallel narrative strands, which intersect and fuse into one deeply alienating, puzzling, and complex whole. Along the way, Seth meets two other traumatised young people, Regine and Tomasz, who challenge the primacy of his own trauma, and facilitate the process of working through his – and their - traumatic experiences together. In this way, the novel works to ameliorate the effects of pain and loss in young people’s lives today and in the process foreground the healing powers of friendship and empathy.
Period30 Aug 2018
Event title14th ESSE Conference
Event typeConference
Conference number14
LocationBrno, Czech RepublicShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Patrick Ness
  • Trauma
  • Empathy
  • Pain
  • Resilience