A new YA novel from novelist Patrick Ness, author of the Carnegie Medal- and Kate Greenaway Medal-winning A Monster Calls and the critically acclaimed Chaos Walking trilogy, The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a bold and irreverent novel that powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable. What if you aren't the Chosen One? The one who's supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death? What if you're like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again. Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week's end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life. Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.
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The worldbuilding here is wonderful. Through the chapter titles we are told a parallel tale of the fight between Satchel, an Indie kid, and The Immortals, strange beings bent on taking over the world, one host at a time.
"Chapter the Second, in which indie kid Satchel writes a poem, and her mom and dad giver her loving space to just feel what she needs to; then an indie kid called Dylan arrives at her house, terrified, to say a mysterious glowing girl has informed him of the death of indie kid Finn; Satchel and Dylan comfort each other, platonically."
There are also mentions throughout the text of things like 'that time the kids were all dying beautifully of cancer' or how Indie kids never seem to use the Internet and are always flipping through the card catalogue. The only complaint that I have is that I wanted MORE! Intense break up scenes in the restaurant every night, a new kid moving in once a week and falling in insta-love with the least likely person, wildly inappropriate declarations of love in public places, groups of teens obsessively waiting on the next big trend and arguing the merits of vampires vs werewolves vs zombies.
Against this backdrop, we have the quirky, but fairly normal story of Mikey and his friends as they just try to survive the latests attack and figure out where they stand with each other as the prepare to separate for the first time. Mike not only has to deal with his feelings for Henna, but also the arrival of a strange new kid who seems to have divided her attention. While Mike is certainly not the kid of character we LOVE, he is the kid of character we root for and he is real. One of my favorite parts of the novel was the exploration of Mikey's anxiety and OCD. He speaks about getting stuck in loops, doing something over and over again until he gets it 'right' (even though even he can't say what 'right' is). He also talks about how scared he is and how going back on medication feels like a failure. There are far too few novels that show the reality behind mental illness and that it is not just something that can be worked through by the end of the book. Mikey is really afraid of his illness and what it might cause him to do and he talks about it, he seeks help and he makes steps towards getting better.
The romance between Mike and Henna is sweet, but where this book really shines is in the group dynamics. They are such a great cast of characters and they mesh so well together than they make me wish I had friends like that in high school (albeit I could skip the whole apocalypse every couple of years part). I do wish that we had alternating narrators between the four main characters as I would have loved to see their take on this world as allow for the female characters to be fleshed out a little more as they did tend to fall a little flat compared to Mike and Jared.
Bottom Line: The Rest of Us Just Live Here has a fantastic premise and executes it fairly well. The story it tells is not the exciting I-Saved-The-World story, but it is an interesting and important one. Here's hoping little sister Meredith has her own story to tell in another book.
As the book went on, I got a lot more engaged, and ended up enjoying it overall though, so a real mixed bag!
Patrick Ness' snark towards nowadays' YA novels about the Chosen One and the heroine with the quirky name always in the middle of a love triangle, was pure gold! It made me chuckle everytime because I could recognize the pattern of almost all of the dystopias I read in the past year and a half. About the genre, he was not trying to shame on it, he was merely taking the sh*t out of these stories, pointing out how poorly contemporary authors plot them. And I agree.
The book doesn't focus on this matter though, not in the way you might think diving into it.
"We share out craziness, our neuroses, our little bit of screwed-up-ness that comes from our family. We share it. And it feels like love."
The story focuses on a group of friends, Mikey, Jared, Henna, Mel, Meredith and Nathan and their struggles through adolescence: crushes, mental illnesses, sexualities etc Every now and then they find themselves witnessing explosions, weird zombie-like beings, mysterious lights, indie kids running around town (and eventually dying) without ever being involved in the action. They just wait for the entire place to blow up or for the end of the world or for the Chosen One to save the day. It's an old story. Happens almost every year. We find ourselves in a universe that recognizes vampires and ghosts and deities and other paranormal entities as real threats (at least teenagers do, adults always deny the obvious because *angsty teenage voice* they don't understand us! *drama queens her way out of the room*).
I was surprised at how little action we witnessed. I thought we were going to read about a group of kids actually being around the heroes and looking at them while they saved the world. The book instead was about a normal group of friends who just wanted to graduate and find their place in the world. Which was fine but wasn't what I signed up for. Hence the 3 stars.
I liked it though, the characters were flawed, and not flawed because they were oh so different but because they were going through what every one of us goes through, so I found them pretty relatable. Also, I liked the take on mental illness:
"For now, as a start, I'd like to put you on some medication. Why are you making that face?"
"Medication... is a failure?"
"The biggest one. Like I'm so broken, I need medical help."
"Cancer patients don’t call chemotherapy a failure. Diabetics don’t call insulin a failure."
And the characters didn't just heal because a pretty boy/girl kissed them on the cheek.
I'd recommend it to you if you're looking for a normal gang of teenagers who just happens to live in a town full of Chosen Ones that never fail to blow something up. And because Patrick Ness' writing is hilarious! I'll surely check other books of his in the future!
Mikey is just an average guy. Sure, his family is a mess, but all Mikey wants is to graduate high school, leave this town, and get the courage to finally ask his crush out. That's it. Yeah, weird things are happening in his town, glowing blue eyes and whatnot, but that;s not Mikey's problem. Mikey just wants to finish his last school year with his friends before the indie kids blow up the high school. Again.
There are times when you just know you're going to love a book. I knew I was going to love this book to second I found out that Patrick Ness was writing yet another book. Part of that was because Patrick Ness is an author god, but also, the premise is just too amazing! A book about a main character who is not the chosen one? Who just has to deal with the crap that the chosen one creates? YES PLEASE! I am so glad to say that this book exceeded my expectations. Yes, it's that good.
My favorite part of this book has to be how it just pokes fun at all the YA tropes. First off, I need to explain some things. In the 'world' that this book takes place in, there are indie kids. Indie kids are basically the main characters of YA novels. They have weird names, are too cool for prom, and die a lot. Also, all the weird things that happen always seem to be related to them. There's been soul-sucking ghosts, zombies, whatever, and the indie kids are always related to it. There was also mention of a few years ago where everything was vampires and romance (*cough* Twilight *cough*) and another mention of indie kids "dying beautifully of cancer". Seriously, it hits all the tropes. I haven't even hit all of them.
Mikey and his friends are essentially the classmates of the indie kids. They go to school with them and know them, but it's like how you know your classmates. Still, they have to deal with the things the indie kids do. I really liked this unique perspective on this because it gives you an idea of what the 'extras' have to go through in books. Yeah, they notice the vampires, the zombies, and whatever. Mikey and his friends do have run-ins with the weirdness going on in fact, and some of it really affects them (some doesn't. Because the weird things always go after the indie kids).
The main thing, though, is while this perspective is unique in the YA world, it's really just normal. Mikey is normal. His friends are (mostly) normal. This book is mainly just about Mikey and his friends and I enjoyed reading about a normal group of friends just trying to have average lives, in their weird world. It also felt just so real. The characters have real problems. Mikey and his sister(s) have problems with their family, but Mikey also struggles with anxiety and OCD. Other characters also have very real struggles shown (though, Jared had some out-of-ordinary ones). And it was all shown realistically! It seems like it would be boring to read about, but I really liked it and I thought it was amazing!
Overall, I loved this book so much! It's just so weird, so unique, so gosh darn interesting, and yes, very amusing at times. Please just pick up anything that this man writes.