The Rest of Us Just Live Here
by Patrick Ness
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. (goodreads.com)
I am going to try my best to blog about the books I read this year. I miss writing about books. My course last semester on Editing for Children and Teen books, and my being back at the bookstore has made me excited for reading once more. I might not write about every book I read (and here’s hoping I read MANY in 2017!) but I want to write about those that I enjoyed.
I like starting off the year with a book that makes me happy. And I like starting the year by reading – and finishing – a book. Makes me feel all accomplished (and is a lovely way to relax!)
The Rest of Us Just Live Here is an interesting sort of book. I discovered it while showing a customer something else at work. It was on the staff pick wall and something about it hooked me. I bought it before the store closed that day because I knew I NEEDED to read it on my day off the next day. In fact, I started it New Year’s Eve, but I am pretty much dead from this flu so I didn’t manage to finish it before I needed to go to bed.
I am writing about this story because I keep thinking about it. First of all, my instinct that I needed to read this book was spot on. I devoured it. I liked it a lot. But parts also bothered me. See, the book is sort of a weird mix of YA urban fantasy and a contemporary issues (mental illness) novel. The story is about those kids who aren’t the chosen ones. The bystanders in a story about Chosen One Teens who battle and save the world from apocalypses. There is very little reference to those Chosen Ones (called “indie kids” in this book) though. The story, to me, was more about teens who had regular issues just trying to cope with life.
Mike, for instance, the protagonist has OCD, and his older sister is recovering from an eating disorder. Their father is an alcoholic and more-or-less checked out of life and family, but still living with them because their over-achieving, running for political office, mother doesn’t want to ruin the perfect family vibe. There’s a very poignant scene between Mike and his therapist towards the end of the book that made anxiety/OCD/mental illness very real, and raw. I loved the way the author describes the struggle with accepting medication to help calm anxiety and see it as a failure to be ok on your own. There are comparisons between medical and “accepted” illnesses (like diabetes, or cancer) and those not being seen as failure.
So as a story about teens dealing with Real Life things, and mental illness awareness, this was a rather good book.
Where the book lacks, in my opinion, is within the idea of it being about the kids who aren’t the paranormal saviours. Sure each chapter starts off with a paragraph about what’s going on with the Indie kids (who all have those fancy, weird names that characters in paranormal novels tend to have. I was rather amused by the five or so kids who had the name Finn. That does seem to be a popular name in those types of books. I always refer to those strange names as Soap Opera Names.) but once that little summarized Indie Kids storyline is over, it’s back to Mike and his gang of friends. His best friend, Jasper, happens to be one quarter God of cats (long story), but refuses to be an Indie kid. Other than that, and the occasional news of the death of one of the Indie kids (as they fight the impending apocalypse that we don’t really know anything about), and the random explosion of an auditorium, and the school – we don’t really have much bystander reaction to whatever else is going on that’s paranormal and/or The End of The World. I’d have liked a little more interaction between the indies and the normal kids who just want their school to not blow up before graduation.
The other part of the story that stuck out to me was Mike’s interaction with the new guy, Nathan. Mike takes an instant dislike to Nathan as he only transferred to the school six weeks before graduation and seems awfully suspicious. Much of Mike’s dislike for Nathan has to do with jealousy as the girl he’s mooned over since the dawn of time, Henna (Finnish, not an Indie Kid name!), has feelings for Nathan. But from Mike’s point of view, Nathan does seem suspicious, and could possibly be the reason for whatever battle the Chosen One kids are battling. Mike is a pretty unreliable narrator at this point and I did have to keep guessing what Nathan’s deal was. Turns out I was off by a long shot, and even though Mike’s friends are annoyed with him for always suspecting the new guy who has suddenly joined their group, I have to say I’m Team Mike on this. In a small town, where all these strange paranormal things keep happening, a new person who smoothly sails in at the same time everything (“everything” they claim is going on, of which we don’t really know about) is going on, can be a rather suspicious deal. I get where Mike’s paranoia comes from 100%. I don’t think his friends were very fair to him about his reaction because it made sense to me.
I love that my instinct about this book was on point. As a novel about mental illness and dealing with teenage issues, I think this story stood out to me. I wish the actual part about how the normal kids just want to get on with their lives and not have to worry about all the paranormal apocalyptic stuff going on was a little more present in the story though. It was certainly a very interesting way to tell a paranormal story in a short, summarized paragraph per chapter, but I wish there could have been more obvious signs that stuff was happening around the normal kids.
I am content with the first book I have read in 2017. It made me feel. It made me think. It was enjoyable to read. And I have a feeling that my bookstore job might bankrupt me. 😉