By Hannah B
I was a little apprehensive when I first opened this book. For one thing, I’ve never read Patrick Ness, nor do I know much about him. For another, when I read the blurb and a few reviews, it seemed like a supernatural save-the-world type of story, which, I admit, I wasn’t in the mood for at the moment.
Long story short, it’s about four teens who are about to graduate. They each have their own problems to deal with—high school romance, parental trouble, finding their true selves and their place in the world. Meanwhile, some of their classmates face great danger when creatures known as the Immortals start showing up. There is love, loss, and betrayal as they try their best to save the world.
I struggled with the first few pages, trying to get the rhythm of the story right. But with the way the universe works, I ended up really, really, really liking it.
Now I tend to blabber when it comes to things I really like, so in an attempt to organize my thoughts, here are three things I like about The Rest of Us Just Live Here:
1. It shines in its ordinary-ness.
In the world of supernatural YA, everything is big, life-changing. We see glimpses of that in the chapter headers: “Chapter the First, in which the Messenger of the Immortals arrives in a surprising shape, looking for a permanent Vessel; and after being chased by her through the woods, indie kid Finn meets his final fate.”
I could give you all of chapter headers, name all the people who died, tell you who betrayed who in the end—and it still wouldn’t spoil anything. Why? Because that’s not the story the book is trying to tell. In a reversal of roles, the “big events” become the subplot that provides a kind of white noise to what’s really going on.
We zoom in on those standing in the sidelines, the people who aren’t Harry Potters or Katniss Everdeens, what the book calls the indie kids. Their lives are nothing amazing in the save-the-world sense, and that’s okay. They deal with the problems we have, the things we go through while the rest of the world is invaded or blown up or obsessed with vampires. These un-supernatural (natural?) problems may not be a big deal to the world, but they are a big deal to us, and that matters just as much.
2. It is self-aware.
We all know how easy it is to get swept up by trends. Vampire craze a few years back? Gods and goddesses mixing with the mortal world? Hipsters with their “old-timey jackets” and “fashionably black-rimmed glasses”? We’ve seen them come and go. Some of them are back; some never left. What I like about this book is that it knows the world it lives in, how absurd it can get, and has no trouble pointing this out and laughing at itself.
It’s refreshing to read something that doesn’t take itself too seriously, without losing any of its depth. It has the monsters that we know of—otherworldly creatures, possessed animals; and the monsters that we know—losing friends, losing our minds. Both need to be faced and both have serious consequences, but that doesn’t mean we can’t laugh a little while doing so. I mean, there aren’t a lot of YA characters who—after seeing a boy from school being chased into the forest by a little girl “glowing with her own light,” then seeing a pillar of blue light shoot up from where the two ran—would just exchange wtf glances and say, “They better not blow up the high school again.”
3. It knows how to handle the #feels.
I like that it’s not one big cryfest, even though my eyes welled up a good number of times (I have a lot of feelings, okay). It’s not all teen angst and star-crossed lovers’ drama. Sure, it has its fair share of self-doubt and unrequited love, but it doesn’t just focus on that aspect of teenage life. It shows struggles with our families, our friendships, ourselves—but it knows how to pull back. The story flows like a conversation you might have with your best friend or with yourself.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have its moments, the ones that go straight to your chest and make your insides feel slightly heavier because of the added truth: “The mistake of every young person is to think they’re the only ones who see darkness and hardship in the world.”
But it gives you all sides of it: “The mistake of every adult, though, is to think darkness and hardship aren’t important to young people because we’ll grow out of it. Who cares if we will? Life is happening to us now, just like it’s happening to you.”
It’s honest, plain and simple, and I think that’s what makes it work.
So these are the three things. There are probably more, but it pretty much boils down to these anyway. Maybe it’s my thing for underdogs. Maybe it’s the humor. Maybe it’s all the times I saw myself in the characters (which was so often that it started getting creepy). Whatever it is, it strengthened my love for good stories, and my belief that there’s always one waiting to be found—you just have to keep looking. Patrick Ness took the time to look away from the explosion, shift his gaze to the sidelines, and let the ordinary have its time in the spotlight.
For the rest of us, The Rest of Us Just Live Here is available at Fully Booked Online.
Hannah writes stuff and goes places.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not expressly reflect the views of Fully Booked. That said, we love our authors anyway.]