READ: September 2015
OVERALL RATING: ★★★★
It’s no secret among people I know that I’m a huge fan of everything Patrick Ness writes. After reading A Monster Calls a few years ago, and going on to devour the Chaos Walking trilogy and More Than This (I’ve yet to foray into his adult fiction) I’ve pressed copies of his books into people’s hands nearly every time they enter a bookshop with me. Naturally, I was incredibly excited when I heard that Patrick Ness was releasing a new book full stop but the premise, a book about the people who aren’t the Chosen One, had me counting down the days until its release.
I want to start off by saying that to go into this book expecting the likes of the Chaos Walking trilogy or More Than This, is to do this book a disservice, because The Rest of Us Just Live Here aims to do something else entirely. This isn’t about saving the world, or taking down a corrupt system, it’s about the ordinary, the everyday. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is about a group of teenagers who are trying to finish high school while it seems like the world is ending around them. Each chapter begins with a summary of the ‘Chosen One’ storyline, before shifting the focus to the characters that would ordinarily be brushed aside in such narratives.
The Rest of Us is, in some ways, a satire of young adult fiction. But it’s a nice satire. Patrick Ness loves YA, and it’s clear throughout the book that he does, which is why it works so well. In a way, it does feel like a book suited for people who are already fans of Ness. For instance, the use of the word ‘feistily’ reminded me of this (or this) which is probably exactly what Ness intended. These jokes about tropes in young adult fiction made this book incredibly funny. The line “this is worse than when they were all dying beautifully of cancer” had me snorting rather obnoxiously alone in my room at one in the morning – and that’s another thing, for all that’s it might not initially seem like a thrilling page-turner, I still ended up reading it into the small hours.
There were simply a lot of things I loved about this book. For example, it handles mental health issues very well, namely Mikey’s obsessive-compulsive behaviour, and Mel recovering from anorexia. I also really how the relationship between Mikey and Henna felt more like what a romantic relationship between two teenagers is actually like, and their friendship in general was just really great to read. This book is home to a host of wonderful, loveable characters. Jared is probably my favourite (he’s probably going to be everyone’s favourite) but picking a favourite does make me feel kind of awful, because I really liked all of the characters in this book. There are also parents in this novel. Albeit, they’re absent parents, but this is acknowledged as something that’s bad. Mikey’s stunted conversations with his mother were one of my favourite parts about this book, because they felt very real. I particularly liked how Mikey’s attempts to discuss the weird things that are happening with the indie kids are met with a kind of dismissal from his mother, even though he knows she must have been through something similar. It was quite a keen metaphor for, honestly, literally every conversation you have with your parents when you’re a teenager, so I really liked that the disconnect between them felt almost wilful on his mother’s part.
Overall, I just really liked what this book is aiming to do. I understand why the Chosen One narrative is so popular in young adult fiction. Being a teenager can make you feel different, and those narratives give a kind of reassurance that there’s a reason for that. But to be honest, I never really felt all that different or awkward as a teenager, because I had a great group of friends who never made me feel that way. I think that’s why I liked this book so much, because I definitely wasn’t one of the “indie kids” at school, so I liked that the book focused on the people that the big and seemingly hugely significant things don’t happen to. Because sometimes all you’re meant to do is finish school, get into your choice university, and hang out with your friends – and those things aren’t boring, and they aren’t insignificant, and I think it’s fantastic that this book says exactly that by letting all the big stuff fall into the background and instead focusing on the ordinary.
This is another book that I read in one or two sittings. It’s such a wonderful, heart-warming read, full of characters that I was quite sad to leave behind once I’d finished!