The short: 4/5 ✦. A beautifully written novel about failure and growing up and friendship and love, all while an potential apocalypse is happening to other people.
I’m beginning to think that Patrick Ness can simply write no wrong – and by that I mean that I’ve not yet read something by him that I didn’t adore. The Chaos Walking series is one of my all-time favorite book series, and I just read A Monster Calls not too long ago, which was also fantastic. So I had pretty high hopes when I finally got this book, The Rest of Us Just Live Here.
And I was not disappointed.
It’s not as intense as the Chaos Walking; it’s more introspective and character-based, like A Monster Calls, and so if you’re expecting high-octane action or heart-wrenching emotion, you might be disappointed. You see, this story isn’t about those kind of kids – it’s about the rest of them. The ones who have issues and problems but relatively “normal” ones. They don’t have to worry about surviving when saving the world; they worry about surviving when graduating high school. Sometimes, their parents are supportive; sometimes, their parents suck. Sometimes, they have mental disorders; sometimes, they don’t. Basically, the characters are like you and me. And that’s makes them infinitely relatable.
I found the world to be utterly fascinating: where every “world-ending” event from any television show or movie or book was stopped by a Chosen One (our protags call them “indie kids”) actually happened. So there’s stories of old of when zombies came around or vampires tried to make out with everyone or when the high school blew up again. And in the time of the novel, there’s yet another apocalypse coming — something to do with blue lights and Immortals or whatever — but it’s all happening in the background (and neatly summarized at the beginning of each chapter, with all the wonderful eye-rolling nonsense that tends to happen in such stereotypical tales).
There’s four main characters, with the narrator being Mike Mitchell. Through a series of traumatic events surprisingly not related to the indie kids’ problems, he has OCD, his sister is recovering from anorexia, his gay best friend with godly powers (probably the most indie of these non-indie kids) is keeping secrets from him, his dad is an alcoholic loser, his mother is a politician (’nuff said), and his half-black, half-Scandinavian crush doesn’t seem at all interested in him. As you can see, the characters cover a wide range of diversity and in a very natural, realistic way.
What was most relatable to me was Mike’s anxiety, if not his OCD; it’s all very well-described and respectfully shown, and the chapter of his therapy session is stunningly beautiful in its simplistic execution. And my dad was also an alcoholic, similar to Mike’s in that there was no violence or “episodes” but a mental checking-out of reality (re: sleeping all day). I thought I might be triggered by this, actually, but I felt more of a sadness, a sympathy along the lines of, “Yup, I know what that’s like,” so I appreciated that aspect, however unintentional. I additionally liked that Mike’s little sister was treated respectfully, as a little kid who’s part of the family, even among his friends, not a nuisance or a plot device. As a big sister myself, younger siblings can indeed be annoying, but you love them anyway and want them to help them with their problems or join their fun times, and otherwise have them be involved in your life and vice versa.
Basically, I connected to this novel on multiple levels, but the plot and characters really stand up on their own even without that personal connection. It’s about friendship and love and cats and healing and maturing and making decisions and being strong and failure and love – really, it has everything. Like all of Ness’s books, I highly recommend this one.
Header image: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, published August 27th 2015 by Walker Books.