Monday, October 5, 2015

The Rest Of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Title: The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Author: Patrick Ness
Release Date:
Oct 6, 2015

The Gist:
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.

Mikey is a completely normal guy; at least he seems to think so.  In his world you are a normal, or an Indie.  The Indies are the chosen ones.  When the world comes crashing down and aliens invade or vampires take over the school, it is the Indies who save the day.  It is also the Indies who die, a lot.  Mikey and his friends are just trying to get to graduation.  To get into good colleges far away from their home town and leave the messy parts of their lives behind.  However, Mikey suffers from anxiety and OCD, things that got really bad during his mother's last campaign and after his sister nearly died from and eating disorder.  He thinks he has things under control but when mysterious blue lights start showing up in town and Indie kids start disappearing he fears the worst - another end-of-the-world showdown and he and his friends may not escape this time.  
The worldbuilding here is wonderful.  Through the chapter titles we are told a parallel tale of the fight between Satchel, an Indie kid, and The Immortals, strange beings bent on taking over the world, one host at a time.  

"Chapter the Second, in which indie kid Satchel writes a poem, and her mom and dad giver her loving space to just feel what she needs to; then an indie kid called Dylan arrives at her house, terrified, to say a mysterious glowing girl has informed him of the death of indie kid Finn; Satchel and Dylan comfort each other, platonically."
There are also mentions throughout the text of things like 'that time the kids were all dying beautifully of cancer' or how Indie kids never seem to use the Internet and are always flipping through the card catalogue.  The only complaint that I have is that I wanted MORE!  Intense break up scenes in the restaurant every night, a new kid moving in once a week and falling in insta-love with the least likely person, wildly inappropriate declarations of love in public places, groups of teens obsessively waiting on the next big trend and arguing the merits of vampires vs werewolves vs zombies.    
Against this backdrop, we have the quirky, but fairly normal story of Mikey and his friends as they just try to survive the latests attack and figure out where they stand with each other as the prepare to separate for the first time.  Mike not only has to deal with his feelings for Henna, but also the arrival of a strange new kid who seems to have divided her attention.  While Mike is certainly not the kid of character we LOVE, he is the kid of character we root for and he is real.  One of my favorite parts of the novel was the exploration of Mikey's anxiety and OCD.  He speaks about getting stuck in loops, doing something over and over again until he gets it 'right' (even though even he can't say what 'right' is).  He also talks about how scared he is and how going back on medication feels like a failure.  There are far too few novels that show the reality behind mental illness and that it is not just something that can be worked through by the end of the book.  Mikey is really afraid of his illness and what it might cause him to do and he talks about it, he seeks help and he makes steps towards getting better. 

The romance between Mike and Henna is sweet, but where this book really shines is in the group dynamics. They are such a great cast of characters and they mesh so well together than they make me wish I had friends like that in high school (albeit I could skip the whole apocalypse every couple of years part).  I do wish that we had alternating narrators between the four main characters as I would have loved to see their take on this world as allow for the female characters to be fleshed out a little more as they did tend to fall a little flat compared to Mike and Jared.

Bottom Line: The Rest of Us Just Live Here has a fantastic premise and executes it fairly well.  The story it tells is not the exciting I-Saved-The-World story, but it is an interesting and important one.  Here's hoping little sister Meredith has her own story to tell in another book. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

15 and up
Sex: Kissing, Sex between teens (not described), talk of masturbation
Violence: Car crash
Inappropriate Language: Dick, Pissed, Bastard, Shit, Fuck
Substance Use/Abuse: Smoking, Underage Drinking


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