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

and the rest of us just live here review

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, via HarperTeen, out now.

[I received this book from HarperCollins Canada in exchange for an honest review; this did not affect my opinion of the book whatsoever.]

What if you’re not the Chosen One? What if your life is still ridiculous and dramatic, but you’re just a normal person? Oh wait. That could be me or you!

Patrick Ness found a way to put a spin on a regular coming-of-age story by framing it under the guise of higher powers. You know how on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a random person dies every episode or so in passing, and the Scoobie Gang shrugs it off because they have bigger things to deal with? Whenever I watch the show and that happens, I always think “but won’t the public freak out that someone’s missing? What about their families?” because I am high on the empathy scale and also that kind of thing is reality. Anyways, there were loads of people who didn’t die too, those who were just kind of confused at why there was a funny-looking dude hanging around their school. Patrick Ness’ characters in The Rest of Us Just Live Here are those outsiders, except they vaguely know what’s going on. But they’ve got their own stuff to deal with.

The story of Mikey and his gang of diverse weirdo friends only slightly intertwines with the chapter-starter bits of stories about what’s going on with the Indie Kids. Yep, the anointed ones are the Indie Kids, they’re hipsters who save the world! How ironic! Mikey and the gang know that the Indie Kids fight evil and their members keep dying more than the regular people do, they know that terrible things happen every generation or so, and they know to expect that their school will blow up by graduation. But the story of Mikey and co. has very little to do with the Indie Kids. So kudos to Ness and his spin, it got me and loads of other sci-fi fans to read this book! It is a great hook, that’s for sure, though I wish the stories intertwined more. I figured the main characters would be like, the kinds of characters that got one line in a Buffy episode, but really they were the kind who don’t get any.

To be fair, Mikey has a lot on his plate. His family is constantly falling apart because of his mom’s job as a state politician and her behaviour triggers anxiety and OCD for him. His older sister Mel is recovering from an eating disorder, and he just wants to protect his younger sister Meredith from the real world. His dad’s an alcoholic who hides in his room or at work. Mikey’s best friend is Jared, who is the resident chubby gay football player, who also happens to be part God of Cats with healing powers. Mikey’s really into Henna, who seems to be the only black girl around, who’s into Nathan, the suspicious newcomer. And being that they’re nearing high school graduation, and everyone’s going to separate places for school, and they can tell something spooky is going on in town, stress levels are high.

I know Mikey has anxiety, but after a while I got a bit sick of his whining, which reads more like ‘wahhh I can’t get the girl.’ It does turn into a better outcome as a conversation about mental health stigma, but later on. I liked Jared’s storyline better in a way, but also I am partial to cats, so it could be that. I was hoping for more from the Mikey and Jared friendship. I thought the sibling bond storyline was strong and nice to read, easiest to connect with and empathize.

I don’t know any other books Ness has written, so I’m not judging on that, but I did like his writing style in this book. It’s quick and snappy. I know I found it an easy read. But I think I set myself up with too-high expectations for the book, as some of my friends have really loved it and I really wanted to love it, so it didn’t end up being what I’d want out of a book that decides to focus on the random people who are in the same school as the Chosen Ones. The story itself was fine enough, but I guess it wasn’t enough to fully grab me. If anything, if it’s like a sci-fi series, then we should find out what the Diverse Weirdo Gang gets up to in college.

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