The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a book that’s been on my to-read list since before it was even published. Reading the blurb, it felt like it was written for me. Every sentence had me doing a little fist pump and a not entirely dignified flail. Plus, Patrick Ness is a wizard with words so you, know, IT HAD TO BE GOOD RIGHT?
The thing is, once I actually got my hands on the book, I started to feel dread that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations, so it became a kind of ritual when picking my next read to go along my bookshelf, give the gorgeous cover a little stroke, and then move on, picking something else. Well this summer, I thought, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. I WILL BE A STRONG BOOKWORM. So I gave myself a little pep talk and opened the first page, and well. I’m so glad I did because it lived up to ALL the expectations.
So let’s get some blurb up in hither and we’ll talk about 5 reasons I gave The Rest of Us Just Live Here 5 stars!
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 worshipped by mountain lions…
1: Flipping the ‘Chosen One’ trope on its head was ingenious and gave me all the fangirly, nostalgic feels.
So true story, I am a major supernatural/paranormal show fangirl, and my favourite of all time is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy was hand-picked to fight the vampires, demons and forces of darkness, to burn bright and (probably) die young. There’s a well-known scene in the last series where Xander, one of Buffy’s inner circle talks about how it feels not to be the chosen one.* If you’ve never seen it, watch the clip now, it’s all kinds of emotional.
* “They’ll never know how tough it is, Dawnie, to be the one who isn’t chosen. To live so near to the spotlight and never step in it. But I know. I see more than anybody realises because they’re not watching me. I saw you last night, and I see you working here today. You’re not special; you’re extraordinary.” *(and yes, I did recite that from memory.)*
In Rest of Us, the ‘Chosen Ones’ are mockingly called indie kids and they’re always saving the world from some *eye-roll* apocalypse, making a mess for everyone else to clear up, loving overdramatically, and hogging the spotlight. Their problems are obviously so much tougher because LIFE OR DEATH except, well, they aren’t. Sometimes, making the decision to get up in the morning is the bravest possible thing you can do.
Ness gives us insight into how it would feel to be one of the normal kids watching the craziness from afar, seeing the indie kids rush in and out of danger with their hair freshly blow-dried, and I literally felt like I was getting to see the other side of the Buffy-verse, and actually, it looks pretty hilarious!
2: The writing is incredible, and the ‘Chosen One’ snippets at the start of each chapter are legendary.
The thing about Patrick Ness, is that all his stories and concepts are very different, but while you’re never sure if the story will be for you, you always know that the writing will be. It’s smart, playful, sarcastic and emotive all in one, and The Rest of Us allows Ness to put his full skills on display.
Each chapter of the book starts with a superhero style except, where we get to hear what the indie kids are up to and all the supernatural goings-on – these are all in a satire format, and every single one had me cracking up. An indie kid doesn’t just throw a stone, for example, they throw it, soulfully, and their lips taste of honey and vegan patchouli, obviously.
It’s wildly clever, especially when contrasted with the rest of the chapters which read mostly like a contemporary novel.
3: There’s amazing mental health rep which is always for the win.
The ‘Chosen One’ side of the story is even more contrasted by the fact that our wonderful protagonist, Mikey, is struggling with his mental health… like 1/4 of our ‘normal’ population (and he’s always worried that out of everyone, he is the one that matters the least). Not only that, but his sister is also suffering. In Rest of Us, we see both of them dealing with their own issues, mental health blips and regressions, going through therapy, and debating whether life is worth living. It made me scrunch up into a BIG BALL OF EMOTION AND TURMOIL, however, it also filled me with hope and made me want to hug strangers so, powerful stuff.
However, the best part of this rep is not only that Mikey’s OCD and his sister’s eating disorder are sensitively explored, it’s that it’s just one tiny facet of their personality – who their crushing on, their grades, family struggles, where they’re going to college are all just as important, if not more so. It was so perfectly balanced. CAN I GET AN AMEN?
4: Sexuality is so not a big deal in Ness’s latest world.
I’ve read a lot of books with good reps lately, but this is my favourite so far re sexuality to date. One of the characters in the novel has had relationships with both guys and girls and this is made out to be so not a big deal. It’s not overanalysed or discussed in great detail, it’s not even a big part of the novel! It just is, and that is SO AWESOME AND REFRESHING, and we need more of it!!
5: There’s all kinds of heartwarming and emotionally crippling family dynamics.
It’s worth noting that there’s no real central plot in Rest of Us, it’s very much an exploration of Mikey’s life and relationships, and struggles (so if you’re the kind of reader that needs that structure, this book may not be one for you. )
A lot of the novel focuses on Mikey’s relationship with his siblings Mel and Meredith. Their dad is almost entirely checked out, while their mum is often only checked when it’s convenient so they’re all fiercely protective of each other. It was so endearing to see how they helped each other when things were tough, to the point where even though their family was super dysfunctional, I wanted to be a part of it. Mikey’s friendship group also felt like his second family, and I really just wanted to chill out with them on the school playing field and talk about life!
So overall, while I’ve picked out 5 things I loved about this book, really, there’s everything to love. I could go on more about the side characters (like Jarad, the cat God), how the mix of genres was both confusing and kind of revolutionary, or I could write a whole post about how Mikey really is the hero of his own story, despite not being an indie kid – but then, I would be here forever, so you’ll just have to read it for yourself!
Have you read The Rest of Us Just Live Here or any other Patrick Ness novels? Are you a fan of his work or are his stories too out there?
Which Chosen One-verse would you most like to live in? I would HAVE to go with Buffy, although Harry Potter would be a close second!