the genius of ‘the rest of us just live here.’

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my copy had the cover on the left, but i can’t decide which one i like better, so here’s both of them.  : )

A few days ago, I finished reading a book by Patrick Ness called The Rest of Us Just Live Here.  (Before recommending it, I’d mention that there is some language and some sensual scenes, making it a light PG-13, although it isn’t as bad as some of the other {more popular} books I’ve read recently.  See my Goodreads review here.)

However, that didn’t stop me from really enjoying it.  I couldn’t put it down.  After three or four “meh” books, I needed a five-star.  And this was that five star.

What’s so special about it?  It’s original, and pokes fun at tropes and stereotypes with incredibly snarky and witty undertones while successfully maintaining a good story.

A new YA novel from novelist 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 worshiped by mountain lions.

At the beginning of each chapter is a summary of what happens in the corresponding chapter of what this book would look like if it were a typical NY Times Bestselling book – with eye-roll-inducing accuracy.  “He tells her she’s beautiful in her own special way and that’s when she knows she can trust him.”  “She saves Finn (through only her own cunning and bravery) and as they flee, she steals a glimpse at the Immortal Crux … it is full of charms and jewels, with an empty space in exactly the shape of her amulet.”  “Satchel writes a poem, and her mom and dad give her loving space to just feel what she needs to.”  (I really feel like I’d have put that book down at the beginning of the first chapter.)

The main characters are the “extras” in a typical story – or, as the title says, “the rest of us.”  They live in the midst of all the crazy stuff going on in their town, but they’re almost ignoring what the “indie kids” get mixed up in.  (“Indie kids,” meaning the main participants in the alternate story, all with weird hipster names.  “Which Finn?” my sister says. “Aren’t all the indie kids called Finn?”  “I think there are a couple of Dylans,” Henna says, “and a Nash.”  “There are two Satchels, I know that,” I say. “A boy Satchel and a girl Satchel.”)  They’re just trying to make it ’til they can get out of their crazy town.  (“We’re just going to stick together and tough it out and try to live long enough to graduate. The usual.”)

All of the main characters are fully fleshed-out, and some of the most compelling I’ve ever read.  I loved the fact that they had real issues and struggles – things that the indie kids never seem to have.  For instance, Mike’s anxiety was so bad that he got stuck in loops, such as washing his hands so many times that they cracked.  (And don’t even get me started on Mike’s therapist’s reaction to Mike’s aversion to medicine.  Literal tears ran down my cheeks.)  Mel struggled with anorexia (and had a few relapses) and Henna couldn’t figure out how to tell her parents that she didn’t want to be a missionary in the war-ravaged Central African Republic.  (BY THE WAY.  Henna and her parents were Christians – missionaries, even!  But they weren’t preachy or stupid.  THANK YOU MERCIFUL HEAVENS, AND THANK YOU PATRICK NESS.)

Some of the stereotypes Patrick bashed were vampires (Henna’s older brother got mixed up with them a few years before and was never seen again), the new kid in school (“What kind of guy transfers to a new school five weeks before the end of his senior year?”), clueless adults (What happens to you when you get older? Do you just forget everything from before you turned eighteen? … Honestly. Adults. How do they live in the world? (Or maybe that is how they live in the world.)), and random overdone scenarios (“Now you’re sure we are not going to be murdered?” Call Me Steve says, actually looking a bit nervous.  “Prom night.  Group of diverse teens.  Remote cabin…”)

The main thing I loved about this story is that Patrick just Knows What’s Up. He knows all about the tropes and what’s been done too many times… and what hasn’t been done. And it all just works.  And it’s so neat because the entire book demonstrates the truth that every life is important.  Whether you’re battling Immortals or just trying to figure out how to tell a girl you like her, your story is important and unique and worth telling.

“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.”

And that’s basically why I loved it so much.  Patrick had this pretty decent story going about this girl who had this amulet that had something to do with Immortals, but he decided to delve into the characters in the background of that story – and I, for one, found that far more interesting.

In fact, the whole story can be summed up in one quote:

“Not everyone has to be the Chosen One.  Not everyone has to be the guy who saves the world.  Most people just have to live their lives the best they can, doing things that are great for them, having great friends, trying to make their lives better, loving people properly.  All the while knowing that the world makes no sense but trying to find a way to be happy anyway.”

This book just works.  And it proves that the world needs more books like this – compelling, intriguing, original books that teach universal truths.

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5 thoughts on “the genius of ‘the rest of us just live here.’

  1. Pingback: year in review: 2016. | inklings press

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