Book Title The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Author: Patrick Ness
Number of pages: 352
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.
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr review:
– Two overlapping narratives: 1) a story of your standard YA hero trying to save the world; 2) a story about the background noise simply living their lives (e.g. school/work)
– Nothing really special to note of the setting. There may be holes in the fantasy “world building” but it’s not of importance to the character-driven nature of the story
– Diversity in ensemble with character struggles that feel incredibly real (concerning LGBTQIA, mental illnesses, eating disorders, family issues, etc.)
– Highly quotable. If you enjoy Ness on Twitter, you’ll enjoy parts of the dialogue for sure
I will not let Nessochism take over this review…but oh my god it hurt to rate this book.
Disclaimer: The copy I read was an ARC given to me by Amanda @ Brains Books and Brawn that she received from an Indigo Teen giveaway.
This is a story about Mikey. He’s a non-hero; a kid who goes to school, has shifts at a diner, deals with family and friendship struggles, and really, just wants to graduate in one piece. But life, as it is, has other plans that don’t concern him. No…Life has chosen the ones who matter—the Indie kids—valiant heroes tasked with saving a suburban town from the recent appearance of the strange blue lights. And Mikey will be damned if they make the school explode…again.
Everything is wholly contemporary in this book…but not? It has fantastical elements that are left unexplained but I found it rather purposeful as it isn’t in the focus to provide dribble on some new world to better understand the environment our protagonist is in.
Would I have enjoyed it to learn more of the satire in the current debacle of the glowing lights and all the deaths? Yeah. Would I have liked to learn more about the past indie-kid struggles? Absolutely…but that isn’t the focus. So everything is left bland and very suburban with all the small-town vibes (like when there’s a concert for some band you never heard of but because they’re in The Middle of Nowhere Town, it becomes the greatest and most important thing ever). So take any town and I’m sure it’d do a decent job at vividly painting what Ness is trying to sell.
I loved the juxtaposition between the conflict-driven “indie kid” story and the character-driven “normal kid” story. Some of my favourite parts are when they overlap and you see that spectacle of the paranormal as it influences the environment. It’s grossly satirical in that it laughs at every single damn trope found in YA-fiction.
Ness could have written the story without any of the background noise. But this story is about the non-heroes, the random kids with boring names leading boring lives with struggles in friendship and school and love and just living life. It is a story for those who often get axed due to their “supportive” nature to the plot and gives thumbs up to say, “you’re important, too” – because they are.
But therein lies the jarring fact that this whole story is pointless with no plot for the narrator. It’s a bit disorienting to know that you’re essentially following a narrative that lacks a purpose other than…well, to just wake up the next day and know that you’re somewhat okay. This story isn’t one that’s loud with fanaticism and “change the world” hurrahs. It’s a quiet one that focuses on non-binary problems that stem from life and driven by this continual fear of failing to do well. It’s a very human book.
And I’ll be completely honest: I wasn’t a voracious reader for this story despite my incredibly bias to my overt mancrush for Ness (he’s basically God). It took me around two weeks to read this title. However, there’s something really special in that the message is surprisingly simple (and perhaps profound), and yet, it’s complicated enough that it has to be reminded.
And that, perhaps, may just be Ness at his best.
I connected with this story so fucking much. Mikey is one of those characters that have staying power. Like Conor (A Monster Calls), like Seth (More Than This), like Todd (Chaos Walking), Ness has added another name to the roster of those who live off the page and feel real in their environments. I don’t believe myself to have OCD but this book makes me think otherwise. The penmanship to write these non-heroes to be pliable in their struggles is something I cannot stress enough, because:
Not everyone will have problems of a family tree skewed with missing variables.
Not everyone will mentally struggle with forces that see [your] actions in loop until it feels right and just.
Not everyone will enjoy a culturally and socially sophisticated lifestyle to not have to battle identity.
But some will. And make no mistake: the promise and power this story has above all else is to remind us that we’re the superheroes of our own lives.
The other characters are alright too.
Of all praise I have for Patrick Ness’ The Rest of Us Just Live Here, it doesn’t take the cake for my favourite of his. It’s a short satire that bends the metaphysics of genre typecasting, is highly quotable, shows glimpses of Nessochistic flair (e.g. Twitter-Ness) in all its form, and is unflinchingly real in its diverse and intersectional representation of human issues but compared to his other pieces, it’s not quite up at that level of storytelling for me.
So, yeah, this book is either simply complicated or complicatedly simple; whichever, it’s an important piece that speaks volumes with so little. Because as long as you breathe, smile, and do it all over again…I guess you’re alright.
Even my phone is a