Tuesday, December 1, 2015
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
For high school senior Mikey Mitchell and his friends it means hoping to at least make it to graduation and college, especially when it becomes clear that once again the "indie kids," the Chosen Ones with their cool-geek haircuts, thrift shop clothes and names like Finn, Satchel, Dylan, or Kerouac are involved in "some story going on that they're heroes of." In Mikey's lifetime, the indie kids have already defeated the undead, soul-eating ghosts, the vampire cycle of romance and death.
He may not be a Chosen One, but life isn't easy for Mikey. He's plagued with OCD, anxiety, and worry. He has been in love with his friend Henna since he was 12 and he only has a few weeks left to tell her his feelings. Henna's father is a white Finnish foot doctor, her mother a black music minister at their church and during the summer vacation, the family will be going on a mission to the Central African Republic.
Jared, Mikey's best friend, is gay and has been going off on weekends without telling anyone where he's at. When Jared's grandfather Herbert was a teen, the indie kids defeated the Gods and Goddesses, sending them back where they came from. But one goddess, the Goddess of Cats, remained and married Herbert. As a result, Jared is also one quarter God, worshipped by all the cats in town and one mountain lion. But where does he go and why so secretive?
Mikey worries a lot about his older sister Melinda or Mel, who has battled anorexia, but is doing better. And their parents - mom Alice Mitchell is a politician, running for Congress, dad is an alcoholic. There is a younger sister, Meredith, 10, and maybe a genius but definitely a fan of a rock group called Bolts of Fire (their concert is an important part of the novel).
Into Mikey's circle of friends come two new people who change the whole dynamic of the group, Steve with an interest in Mel and Nathan, who has ensnared Henna's attention. Meanwhile, the indie kids are involved with saving humanity from a takeover by the Immortals, who need new Vessels (human bodies) to survive.
All of this results in a very engaging novel that celebrates the ordinary by making it extraordinary. How does Patrick Ness do that, you might ask? Well, each chapter begins with one paragraph relating the "drama" the indie kids are involved in. The rest of the chapter focuses on first person narrator Mikey, his friends and family and their quotidian dramas - passing their finals, kissing Henna, dealing with OCD, difficulties of having an alcoholic parents.
And it turns out that regular life is just as captivating, just as compelling, just as exciting as the lives of the "Chosen Ones" and often, just as fraught with difficulties. I had expected this to be a rather humorous novel, and while there is humor as regards the indie kids and the Immortals, the rest of the novel is a serious look at the ordinary teen's life, which is anything but.
Of course, a novel like The Rest of Us Just Live Here walks a fine line between serious and satire, one that could result in dismal failure but Ness is a master of his craft and pulls it off beautifully. Mikey and his friends are never the object of that satire, and Ness takes their problems very seriously. And while this novel is set in the not too distant future, there are several tongue in cheek pokes at today's hipsters as the grandparent generation of the indie kids..
Ness has been one of my go-to authors since The Knife of Never Letting Go, and once again, he doesn't disappoint. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is perfect for anyone who likes realistic fiction, fantasy, or a mixing of the genres.
This book is recommended for readers age 13+ (although it is suitable for older Middle Grade readers, in my opinion.)
This was an EARC received from Edelweiss/Above the Treeline