“Not everyone has to be the Chosen One. Not everyone has to be the guy who saves the world. Most people just have to live their lives the best they can, doing the things that are great for them, having great friends, trying to make their lives better, loving people properly. All the while knowing that the world makes no sense but trying to find a way to be happy anyway.
– Patrick Ness, The Rest of Us Just live Here
Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully asks what if you weren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death? What if you were 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 might just be the God of mountain lions…
My most anticipated book for 2015 was The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. I have the most enormous crush on Ness… I cannot sing the praises of his books enough! He is an insanely beautiful writer and I had the highest expectations for this book. Ridiculously high expectations! I even swoon over his tweets… yes I have it bad! But enough fangirling – you didn’t come here to listen to that!
Young adult fiction is made up of a series of heroes, one unknowingly beautiful schoolgirl at a time… and school boys too. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is basically just Ness taking the mickey out of YA with a really beautiful story in between. As soon as I finished the book – after laughing my head off – I started googling the book to see if others had had the same reaction. I came across the most hilarious article showing off the hashtag #VeryRealisticYA which describes the harsh realities of being a teenager! It has been suggested that Ness took inspiration from this hashtag; Ness is the master of capturing the teenage desire for there to be more, more to life than what society dictates there should be. In a world where teens feel alone and misunderstood, Ness’ trademark tenderness and care for his characters means that the reader and the characters end up feeling okay with the world and themselves. Okay? OKAY.
Ness has divided the story into two parts, the indie kids and ‘the rest of us’. Each chapter is headed by Ness poking fun at young adult fiction; the indie kids are fighting supernatural forces while romancing The Immortals and trying to (unsuccessfully) avoid death. I really feel sorry for the indie kids. Ness’ pretentious tone very clearly mocks the most common tropes in young adult fiction with the supernatural forces (vampires, zombies, immortals and gods), romance (guys professing their love for the females leads soon after meeting them) and even The Fault in Our Stars by John Green getting a gentle poke,
“There are two more dead indie kids. I didn’t really know either of them, except to see them in the hallway at school, but still. “This is worse than when they were all dying beautifully of cancer,” Henna said…”
Gosh he makes me laugh! While Kerouac, Satchel, Dylan and the Finn’s run around saving the world, Mikey and his friends are just concerned with graduating school before the latest ‘apocalypse’ blows up the school. In a character driven story, Ness’ characters are a perfectly ordinary cast of non-chosen ones. Mikey is the main protagonist who suffers from OCD and anxiety, mixed-emotions about his two friends – one male and one female – and has a heartbreakingly sad view of his place in the world. Mikey’s mother is a local politician, his dad is a drunk, his older sister suffers from anorexia and the baby of the family is burdened with expectation of turning out the most normal… whatever that is. Between the teasing and mocking is a story about a boy who fears he has nothing to give to those around him. His concerns about graduating, prom (and the all important photos) and what comes next leaves him getting stuck in obsessive loops that he worries he won’t be able to get out of. Mental health has been explored more and more in young adult fiction this year but this is just so sad,
“… I hate myself. I feel like an idiot saying it because, blah, blah, teen angst, boo hoo, but I do. I hate myself. Almost all the time. I try not to tell anyone because I don’t want to burden them, but I feel like I’m falling further and further away from them.”
This just highlights what I love most about Ness’ writing. In amongst the mocking and teasing is a profoundly important message that will ring true with any reader, not just the young ones. In times of darkness, no problem is insurmountable, if you allow yourself to ask for help.
The highlight of the book is definitely the characters; they are so flawed and complex and dysfunctional that it makes you laugh and cry. They are so well rounded I had a hard time remembering at the end of the book that they weren’t real. They drive the story forward and the reader doesn’t notice the lack of action. The indie kids are taking care of that!
In case you haven’t noticed, I am completely in love with this book. I think I will have to read it several more times in the coming months just to absorb all of the awesomeness that is Patrick Ness. His writing turns me green with envy and then fills me with happiness. Whatever there is to be understood, he just gets it. He is the ultimate storyteller and his stories are a joy to read. The Rest of Us Just Live Here could potentially turn the tables of young adult fiction in a really positive way. Bravo Patrick!
AUTHOR: Patrick Ness
PUBLISHER: Walker Books Australia
PUB DATE: 27 August 2015
Thank you to Walker Books for sending me a reading copy in exchange for an honest review!