Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Rest of Us Just Live Here - Patrick Ness

Title: The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Author: Patrick Ness
Published: Walker Books, August 2015
Genre: YA, Social Issues, Sci-Fi
My rating: 5/5 

Amazon says Award-winning writer Patrick Ness's bold and irreverent novel powerfully asks what if you weren't the Chosen One? The one who's supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death? What if you were 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 might just be the God of mountain lions... 

Look, some more stuff happens that evening...but nothing so important that I have to go on about it. Just remember, please, most of that stuff is in the past. It isn't the story I want to tell. At all.
You needed to know it, but for the rest of this, I'm choosing my own story.
Because if you can't do that, you might as well just give up.



Let me start by saying that the Chaos Walking series firmly positioned Patrick Ness as, without a shadow of a doubt, one of my favourite authors; The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first book I recommend in any conversation about books. The Rest of Us absolutely in no way let me down. 

This book is essentially somewhat of a satire of YA paranormal romance/sci-fi novels. Each chapter begins with a brief, maybe 100 word, update on whats going on with the indie kids” (one of whom is called Satchel, which never stops being funny). These updates tell the kind of story you'd see in a book/film like I Am Number Four or some other paranormal romance novel. The so-called indie kids are the protagonists of those sorts of stories who must figure out a way to save the day; the kids to whom the aliens show themselves, with whom they share a life-altering love, and against whom they wage a war that threatens the world. The protagonists of our story, however, are just the kids who live in the town; who see all of these things happening but have enough to deal with in their day-to-day lives without having to deal with the vampires, the aliens, and the Gods who decide to take a trip down to earth during their senior year. They are us.

I think I'd assumed that this book was for a younger audience; judging by the blurb alone it could be. But these characters are complex and beautiful and tackling some very grown up issues. The book is written in the first person (often risky, but it works here) from the perspective of Mikey; a 17 year old boy battling crippling anxiety and OCD. We meet his best friend Jared, an openly gay demigod who goes by his middle name as he tries to come to terms with everything that comes with being a gay demigod (he is the grandson of the Goddess of Cats!); his older sister Mel, a recovering anorexic; and Henna, mixed race missionaries' daughter and the object of Mikey's somewhat unrequited love (a love that, at times, verges on an ugly kind of obsession and temporarily turns Mikey into a bit of a dick). They have their baggage, both individually and together, but my goodness do they provide each other with an almost enviable support system. 

It's the kind of concept that had the potential to really not work; very few writers could have pulled it off. In its concept there is very little action in this book; it actively chooses to tell the story of the people with somewhat ordinary lives rather than the ones to whom the action happens. If you're waiting for the story to get going, it won't. That is not the point. This is not a Sci-Fi book about an alien invasion; it is a book about friendship, both its ups and its downs and all of the hiccups in between. It's about loyalty, and love, and family, and the kinds of struggles that need to be addressed more often, particularly in books both for and about young people. It all just happens to go on while some creatures from another world decide to visit Earth for some light invasion. You cannot read this book and not see yourself in one of the characters; or see you and your friends in the relationships Patrick Ness so beautifully and delicately portrays. You cannot read this book and not see the comment being made: the adults in this book brush aside the strange goings on among the young people in the town in much the same way that they tend to brush aside the pressures and struggles of young people as inconsequential. It required wit and humour and a heavy dose of sensitivity and I think Patrick Ness just about got that right.

It cannot go unsaid that this is a gorgeous book. I'd had every intention of waiting for it to come out in paperback before I saw it in Waterstones with its yellow spayed edges and artsy cover design and I couldn't risk the paperback copy not being as stunning. It also includes a print version of the cover exclusive to Waterstones which is pretty cool. I absolutely encourage you, if you're going to read this book (which you definitely should) please, please, please don't get the ebook version. I know it's cheaper and less cumbersome but I promise that you will not regret buying a hard copy. It is a book lover's dream!

As you can probably tell, I would absolutely, most definitely recommend this book to everyone of any age. Honestly the only bad thing I could say about it is that he maybe skims over Mel's anorexia a bit too often - it feels like a bigger comment should've been made on it. But our narrator Mikey sets out that this isn't the story he wishes to dwell on so can I really be annoyed? I'm going to go with no. I'm sure there are people who'd disagree but I believe this book deserves my first 5/5!

Thanks for reading,
Naomi Joy x

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