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 worshiped by mountain lions.
Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.
There’s this one scene in Season Two of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where Buffy and the Scoobies are in the middle of an important meeting, tension is rising…and suddenly a Sunnydale high student walks in to check out a book on Stalin. The Scoobies are understandably surprised; Xander even asks, “Does this look like a Barnes and Noble?” But of course, the Scoobies aren’t the only people using the library, and while a paper on Stalin may not be the end of the world, it’s still pretty important. The students of Sunnydale High have their own lives, and as later episodes show, those lives are not always easy.
The Rest of Us Just Live Here is basically about a group of (mostly*) normal high school students who live in a world that periodically faces attacks from supernatural creatures, ranging from gods to vampires to aliens. Every chapter heading informs the reader of the Big Dramatic Adventures of the Chosen Ones (or, as the book calls them, the Indie Kids). Then we switch to our main characters, who are trying to get through their fairly ordinary (but still complicated) lives. The book actually explores what it would be like to be an ordinary person in a world where extraordinary things happen; mixed in with references and jokes, there are characters who have lost siblings, who worry about their friends and family getting hurt. And of course, unlike the Chosen Ones, these characters have a very limited idea of what’s going on and no way to control it. At the same time, the characters have their actual lives to contend with; The Rest of Us Just Live Here places graduation and distant politician mothers and eating disorders side-by-side with mutant deer and exploding concert venues in an absolutely brilliant way.
*I say “mostly” because the main character’s best friend is one-quarter cat god. It’s a long story.
The Rest of Us Just Live Here is basically a contemporary in a paranormal world, and I love it.
So this is a really cool concept. But there’s more. This book made me FEEL THINGS. (My current Patrick Ness books-to-crying ratio is 2:2, if anyone was wondering). Patrick Ness is just so good at showing characters at vulnerable moments without making anything seem forced, and this book has some gorgeous friendships and amazing portrayal of mental illness.
As a consequence of focusing on the lives of ordinary teenagers in the wake of the latest averted apocalypse, the book felt more like a series of events than anything with an actual plot. I also didn’t feel much chemistry between the main romance of the book, though given the way it all worked out in the end, I’m pretty satisfied.
The way this book handles mental illness is amazing. Mikey has OCD and anxiety, and his sister Mel is recovering from an eating disorder. Even though my issues are pretty different from theirs, there are so many things about living with mental illness that this book just Got. Like worrying that you need your friends so much more than they need you, or comparing your progress to the progress of other people and feeling like it’s a personal failing on your part that you aren’t doing better, or wondering if you’re going to be stuck like this for the rest of your life. At the time, the message this book offers is that it’s all right to ask for help, and that recovery is possible.
The FRIENDSHIPS! By the end of the book, I had teared up about Mikey’s relationship with every single one of the other characters, but his friendship with Jared had a special place in my heart.They love each other a lot and I’m very emotional about it.
In general, Patrick Ness does an amazing job balancing the humorous and serious parts of the story. It actually went more in the seriouss direction than I had expected based on the summary, though of course there were plenty of jokes and asides and references. The best parodies are (a) ones where the writer loves the thing they’re parodying, and (b) ones that deliver a good dose of emotional connection with their humor. This one is right up there with Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan for me.
Definitely pick this one up. A unique and clever concept that leads to a surprising amount of feelings (or maybe not so surprising, since it’s Patick Ness).