I received this book for free from Publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Published by HarperTeen on October 6th, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Contemporary, Mental Health
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
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.
Oh man. Ever since my first encounter with Patrick Ness, I’ve known I can count on him to deliver smart, original, and compassionate diverse books. But this one basically took it to a whole new level. The Rest of Us Just Live Here made me laugh, sigh, and put tears in my eyes. Whether you’re a contemporary or fantasy reader, this one is not to be missed.
First point of awesomeness: this concept. Ness strikes the perfect balance between fantasy and contemporary. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is set in our world, but magic, paranormal creatures, and chosen ones (referred to as “indie kids”) do exist. Yet the characters we follow are completely normal. They are not indie kids, so they are not pulled into the dramatic threats against humanity. They may just feel the aftershocks if, for example, the indie kids blow up the high school. (It has happened before.)
It’s so brilliant and witty! Each chapter of the story starts out with a summed up version of what the indie kids are doing off screen – which of them are dying, what paranormal creature is coming to attack them now, and all their dramatic romantic entanglements. It’s like a parody of all the young adult clichés you know and love. I was giggling all over the place. But after that short summary, it just gets back to our normal characters and the very “mundane” teenage problems they face (and sporadically they get hints of the fantastical issues going on).
But the problems our characters face are anything but boring. Ness brought mental health issues to the forefront in this novel, in the most compassionate and emotional ways. Mikey, the main character, has OCD. But not the “haha, I need to organize this stuff now” OCD – no. The “I have to wash my hands, I didn’t do it right, I need to do it again, or the world might end” OCD. He gets stuck in compulsive loops, which is scary and confusing, and he doesn’t know how to handle it. I was right there with him though, feeling all the sympathy feels. His OCD is rooted in debilitating anxiety, for which he actually gets therapy in the long run. Yes, there are actual scenes with a therapist in this book and they just about broke my heart. (Also, I will never misuse the term ‘OCD’ again – and if I hear anyone in my vicinity do so, I will direct them to this book.)
And while there’s a broad range of other dramatic issues happening (Mikey’s sister’s anorexia, their dad’s alcoholism, their mother’s obsession with her political career, Mikey’s best friend’s homosexuality, and Mikey’s unstoppable feelings for Henna) this book is hardly really dark. There was such an uplifting tone because at the center of it all it’s just these teenage kids – not the chosen ones – just normal kids, living messed up lives, trying to figure their shit out, but having fun in the meantime. The friendships are real, deep, and meaningful – particularly because most of them have shitty home lives.
I basically felt all of the feelings ever, except on the romance part. That’s weird for me – especially because I don’t feel like it took away from the brilliance of this book. I do very much like how Mikey was questioning his sexuality. The fact that he had fooled around now and again with his male best friend was a detail that excellently shows the fluidity of sexuality and brings encouragement to kids trying to figure this stuff out. But his feelings for Henna had me less than enthused. He put her on a pedestal so high – it neared a manic pixie dream girl status. Now there is more depth to Henna than that – particularly in her half-black, half-Finnish background – but I couldn’t see that spark in her that had him so infatuated.
Luckily, you don’t need to ship this ship to like this book. It’s about so much more than romance. It’s about mental health, getting through your teenage years, and just figuring yourself out – even if the world is falling to pieces (possibly literally). Finding your friends – the people you can always count on – and discovering ways to cope if your family is less than optimal. It’s about having the tough conversations and breakthroughs to enable yourself to grow. It’s about forgiveness and acceptance. And it just touched my heart in so many ways.