Congratulations, Mr. Patrick Ness: you’ve done it again. You’ve written a novel that’s managed to simultaneously make me feel sad and happy and deeply understood, a story that is unexpectedly bizarre yet fantastic anyways. The overarching premise behind the story is a brilliant one: the idea that not everyone is a “Chosen One,” that the majority of us live our normal lives the best we can with what we have, but that doesn’t make us any less remarkable. Written with Ness’ signature quirky style and authentic personality, The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a novel that every lover of YA literature should read. Here’s why:
+ The characters. Although this story primarily focuses on Mikey Mitchell and his three best friends— Jared, Henna, and Mel (also his twin sister)— there are numerous other characters that have important roles throughout the novel. I can honestly say that each and every character is unique, relatable, and dynamic. They all have interesting pasts and personalities that come into play at different points in the plot, and it’s fascinating to watch them all intersect in different ways. I love how complex the relationships between them are, from the sort of romantic feelings between Mikey and Henna and the platonic friendship between Mikey and Jared to the ever-changing dynamics of the Mitchell family. If I had to choose a favorite character, I would probably pick Mikey’s ten year old sister, Meredith. Meredith is incredibly intelligent and mature for her age, yet she is still a kid at heart. She’s also hilarious!
+ The intertwining story lines. There’s the main story of Mikey and his friends, but then there’s also a story about the “indie kids” fighting off the Immortals. This secondary story is at first only mentioned in snippets at the beginning of each chapter, but gradually it is incorporated more and more into the life of Mikey. It’s such a clever way to illustrate how it feels to be on the outside of the action, to know you’re not the Chosen One. Obviously there aren’t vampires and magical zombie deer in real life, but it’s certainly an effective exaggerated representation of how exciting occurrences can appear form the outside looking in. Moreover, I love how the two story lines seamlessly join together at the end. As a reader you can definitely tell that it’s coming, but I highly doubt that anyone accurately predicts the way in which it actually happens. Needless to say, it’s all completely worth it in the end.
+ The satire. I feel as though YA literature is largely lacking in the satire department. Thankfully, Ness has helped dig us out of that hole! This novel can be viewed as a satire of the YA literature we’ve grown accustomed to reading, in which a specific individual or group of people are chosen to “save the world.” It’s done in a subtle way that is critical while still being humorous, playful, and light-hearted at times. In other words, it’s satire written tactfully. I don’t think an author of typical YA literature would find this offensive or insulting in any capacity; in fact, I think they would find it welcomingly refreshing and perhaps even an inspiration to think a little more outside the box when writing their next work. Plus, reading about Satchel, the many Finns, the Immortals, and the ominous blue light was a blast!
My only critique of this novel is something that’s a bit difficult to explain. While I applaud and greatly appreciate the way he discusses hard and controversial topics in this novel, sometimes it seemed like he was going a little over the top. I understand that he wanted to emphasize that everyday people experience numerous struggles in their lives, but sometimes it felt as though he was trying to cram everything he possibly could into one story. There’s anxiety and OCD, eating disorders, alcoholism, drug abuse, suicidal thoughts, and physical injuries— not to mention the challenge of exploring one’s sexuality without being cruelly judged by one’s peers. On top of all this, there’s also the everyday conflicts that occur between parents and teenagers, especially those who are transitioning from high school to the more independent lifestyle of attending college. When coupled with the fantastical obstacles that the characters face (Jared is 25 percent Cat God?!), these hardships can seem a bit overwhelming all at once. Although it’s impressive that Ness is able to incorporate all of these aspects of life into a story and deal with them all appropriately, it nevertheless felt like a bit too much at times.
Overall, The Rest of Us Just Live Here is yet another example of Ness’ incredible talent as a writer and storyteller. Heartfelt, funny, sad, and inspiring all at the same time, this novel is encouragement to readers everywhere that sometimes extraordinary and ordinary can go hand in hand.
My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5 smileys.
Would I recommend it?: Definitely!
Have you read this book before? What did you think of it? What other books by Patrick Ness would you recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!