I picked this book up for my sister for her birthday, and then demanded that she give it back to me so that I could also read it, because I’m selfish like that (and also that’s how our book-buying works). So although I bought it in May, I didn’t actually get to read it until July, because I had to wait for someone to go home to visit my sisters and collect the book from them. But that’s okay. I could cope with that kind of delay.
So Patrick Ness is my friend Kellie’s ultimate celebrity crush at the moment. He was at YALC, talking about his book A Monster Calls, of which the film is coming out soon. When I told Kellie this, I’m pretty sure she started hyperventilating, and begged me to send her a picture of him. Ness’s books have won pretty much every award going, and his Chaos Walking trilogy, which I read earlier this year, was quite engrossing. The Rest of Us Just Live Here, though, I was not so enamoured with.
A new YA novel from Patrick Ness, author of the Carnegie Medal and Kate Greenaway Medal winning “A Monster Calls” and the critically acclaimed Chaos Walking trilogy, “The Rest of Us Just Live Here” is a bold and irreverent novel that powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.
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.
So here was my major complaint about The Rest of Us Just Live Here: in a book where there are fantastical things going on and blue lights killing people, giving sparse details about the fantasy things happening while concentrating mainly on the boring, ordinary struggles of the rest of the class makes their lives seem, well… boring and ordinary.
And here’s the thing: I love YA realism. I really love books which deal with teenagers trying to get around being normal teenagers, dealing with life, falling in love, anxiety, depression, family issues, all the normal things that everyday people have to deal with. So if this book had been about that – about a group of kids who were just trying to get along and deal with graduating and getting out in to the real world, I totally would have been on board with that. Not everyone has a major magical life crisis to deal with before they turn eighteen, and not everyone needs to save the world.
But this book just set Mikey and his friends up to be the most boring people ever, simply by virtue of their not being the Indie kids. And it constantly, constantly framed them as this, again and again.
The start of every chapter gave a brief synopsis of what the Indie kids were up to as they tried to solve the mystery of the blue lights and what was going on in the town. And that was funny, in a snarky kind of way, as they all had unique names and melodramatic reactions. Then there were the few digs at the tropey nature of YA – vampires were the next big thing, and then kids dying beautifully of cancer, etc. I won’t disagree that there were a few funny moments in this book.
Plus there was a beautifully diverse group of main characters, with struggles of normal teens like anxiety, OCD, relationship woes, school difficulties, and being the descendent of the Goddess of Cats, which was nice. A lot of this book was about friendship, about growing up, about family, and about finding who you are and where you belong. I just think that setting it against the backdrop of the exciting and life-changing events of the indie kids was setting it up to seem boring.
So that’s what I left the book feeling – like I had seen the less interesting side of the town. I know that the whole premise of the book was that not everyone has to be special and sometimes life is just ordinary, even in the middle of the fantastic, so perhaps I’ve missed something crucial here, but this book just didn’t do it for me. A book about the ordinary kids was, to me, very ordinary.
Perhaps A Monster Calls, which is apparently the best thing since sliced bread (or so Kellie says) will be more my style. It’s gone on my to-read list anyway!