It was a slow day at work on Sunday, so I smashed out an entire book. That book was The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness. After a long run of reading mediocre titles, I’m finally reading more books that are not “just ok”, but rather make me say “holy fuck that was good”, and I’m pleased to say this book fell into the latter category. I read his Chaos Walking trilogy a few years ago, and fell in love with his storytelling and his character development, so I was super excited to finally get my hands on a copy of this book.
The book actually tells two stories; that of the “indie kids” who encounter strange happenings and try to save the world. The kind of story you read when you pick up any urban fantasy series. But the best part about this book – and the cleverly worded title tells you all you need to know straight away – is that the world saving part isn’t even the main focus. Ness tells the story in the chapter titles, and it’s brilliantly presented as second fiddle to the main plot, which centres around a group of friends – very much the opposite of indie kids – who each have their own personal issues, and are just trying to make it to graduation without someone blowing up their high school…again.
Our narrator is Mikey, a soon to be graduate, on the cusp of adulthood, who has anxiety so severe, he can’t stop himself from washing his hands over and over and over and…but as all consuming and frustrating as it is, his anxiety is the least of his problems. He is about to graduate, and his life is about to be turned entirely on its head as a result. He has a drunken father and an overbearing, seemingly unfeeling politician for a mother. His sister Mel, (and a member of his close knit group of friends) is a recovering anorexic, and he isn’t sure whether he is in love with Mel’s best friend, Henna, or his own best friend, Jared.
This book was so cleverly written, I wanted to read it again straight away. Ness takes the whole “Chosen One” trope, and turns it into background noise. But he does so in such a way as to poke gentle fun at it, without actually paying any insult to the genre. This whole book plays with the notion that not everyone is the Chosen One, and puts the spotlight on the normal ones, who are just trying to make it through their day to day lives. As our narrator says, “…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.”
The Rest of Us Just Live Here is clever, funny, touching, and to be honest, quite brilliant. Ness effortlessly combines fantasy elements (zombie deer, anyone?) with down to earth, very normal issues and characters. The plot is engaging and entertaining, and the book is well written. I encourage you to give this book a read, I promise you won’t be disappointed.