Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

August 6, 2015

Title: The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Author: Patrick Ness
Publication date: August 27, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen (Harper Collins)
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Rating: 
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
Amazon Goodreads TBD
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.
Have you ever finished a book and then wondered whether you like it or love it, and haven't been able to make up your mind about either? (or maybe I'm the only one who's so obsessive?) Well, that's what's happening with me and The Rest of Us Just Live Here. Hopefully, by the time I get to the end of this review, I'll have made up my mind.

Also, milestone reached. THIS IS MY FIRST PATRICK NESS BOOK YAAAYYYYY!!! *throws confetti everywhere*

So, this is a story about us. The normal folk. The ones who aren't part of the whole 'happening' scene when it comes to supernatural stuff, i.e. the Chosen Ones. I know I've often found myself wondering (especially last night while I was watching Teen Wolf) about what the other kids who are not part of the drama get up to and think about everything that's happening. When there's a demon on the loose and the Chosen Ones (or 'indie kids' as Ness calls them) are running around trying to destroy it, what is the person sitting next to one of the indie kids in class doing? What's happening in their life?

And that is the story of Mikey, Mel, Jared, Hennah, Meredith, and their extended world in their little unnamed town, which is, in Mikey's words, 'a suburb of a suburb of a suburb of a suburb of a city' (I feel you, kid. I live in one of those myself). Each chapter begins with a tiny paragraph about what latest ridiculosity (shut up. It's a real word. I Googled it.) is happening in the indie kids' world, after which they're completely ignored, and the focus is on these five adorably weird kids.

Yeah, that's another thing you should probably know. This book is full of weird stuff. But good weird (for me at least). You might find yourself raising an eyebrow a bit at first, but after a few instances, you start to appreciate the utter freedom that is do be found in embracing The Weird. Its actually fun.

---side note---
I just went through my notes and realised there's SO MUCH I want to say about this book BUT SPACE, and I think I do kind of love it.
---end side note---

One thing that really stood out with this book is how there are SO MANY positive elements in it. It's like Ness had a 'Things to Include to Make Everyone Happy' list and ticked items off one by one.

For one, Mikey and Mel and their mental health issues. They're both really anxious people, and Mikey has OCD, while Mel is on the mend after having developed anorexia. Mikey is the narrator, so we really get a good look at what's going on inside his head, and for me, as someone who has anxiety issues myself, it came across as very realistic. There were several times when I just went "OMG THAT'S TOTALLY ME!"

Which brings me to just how relatable every single character was (except Henna). For the last few years I've been hearing absolutes raves about Ness's writing style everywhere I go. It's nice to know that it's not an exaggeration. He really is a wizard at writing funny, quirky, emotional, brave, screwed up, diverse, scared, and REAL characters. Really, how many books have you read where you can relate to a 10 year old? (given you're not a 10 year old yourself, or talking about how you were at 10)

I'm always on the lookout for great sibling relationships in fiction, and The Rest of Us Just Live Here is one of the best EVER. The Mitchell parents' aren't going to win any awards for their parenting skills, but its probably their lack of any that made their children depend on and support and care for each other so much, and I find that while I am happy that the parents bucked up a bit at the end, I wouldn't change what these kids feel for each other. Mikey & Mel & Meredith are each simultaneously among the best brother and sisters I've ever read of.
I feed my sister her lunch. We share our craziness, our neuroses, our little bit of screwed-up-ness that comes from our family. We share it. And it feels like love.

I love Jared! He is the best friend any guy could ask for, and I AM SO JEALOUS OF HIS AFFINITY WITH CATS!!! (Seriously. Cats. Further proof that Ness must've had a list) Jared is also gay, and usually, authors thoroughly explore that aspect of a character. Ness, however, does not do so. It is there, not as the most important thing about him, but rather as a fact. If there was a character I wasn't completely invested in (other than the parents), it was Henna. If you ask me, the best thing about Henna is her full name, which I won't tell you now, because really, the feeling when you read it for the first time is  incredible (and it's the real name of a real girl! How cool is that?!). It's not that I didn't like her. It's just that I felt she kind of led Mikey on, and that didn't exactly impress me.

The only qualm I had about this book was the lack of a concrete plot of some sort, which, in hindsight, is actually good. It is, after all the story of a bunch of very normal kids, and how many of us can pick out any kind of plot in our lives? Nonetheless, the growth that these characters (especially Mikey and Jared) go through is beautiful to watch, and completely absorbing to read. These characters give The Rest of Us Just Live here its heart, and oh, what a beautiful, brave heart it is.

 There are so many great themes in this book - platonic love... that its okay not to be the Chosen One, and its okay to be mad that you're not, but there are still things that are extraordinary happening in your life... change and coping... being real...

Oh, and for those of you who are wondering (I know I did) if this book delivers on the tagline 'Sometimes you have to find the extraordinary in the ordinary', yes. It does. Big time. With extra awesomeness to boot.

Bottomline: This is the book about you and me. And who doesn't want to read a book about themselves?

FROM AROUND THE BLOGOSPHERE

Books of Amber: Patrick Ness brings this brilliant kind of tongue in cheek humour, gently poking fun at the generic YA supernatural story set-up – there is a story within a story in this book.

Diva Booknerd: It's intelligent, quirky and still addresses real issues such as mental illness and substance abuse such as alcoholism.

It's All In My Head: I would only recommend this book in terms to the issues it discusses, which it discusses really well. However, I don't think the actual plot or characterization was as strong as it could be, as people are not only the sum of their struggles.

Holding Quote:
And we dream the same in my town as you probably do in a city. We yearn the same, wish the same. We're just as screwed up and brave and false and loyal and wrong and right as anyone else. And even if there's no one in my family or my circle of friends who's going to be the Chosen One or the Beacon of Peace or whatever the hell it's going to be next time around, I reckon there are a lot more people like me than there are indie kids with unusual names and capital-D Destinies.

It felt like I was waiting for something to happen. Which has to be the worst part of being young. So many of your decisions aren't yours; they're made by other people. Sometimes they're made by other people who have no idea what the consequences of those decisions might be.

Everything's always ending. But everything's always beginning too.

And yeah, I know most people would think it weird that two guy friends touch as much has we do, but when you choose your family, you get to choose how it is between you, too. This is how we work. I hope you get to choose your family and I hope it means as much to you as mine does to me.

"I'm sure they will, Merde Breath," Jared says. "They can only have really good insurance, you'd think."
"Don't call me that," Meredith says.
"You know we mean it with love, don't you, Bite Size?"Jared asks her.
"Yeah," she says, smiling. "That's why I keep hoping you will. So I can seep saying, 'Don't call me that.'"