No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

2017/12: The Rest of Us Just Live Here -- Patrick Ness

The indie kids, huh? You've got them at your school, too. That group with the cool-geek haircuts and the charity shop clothes and names from the fifties. Nice enough, never mean, but always the ones who end up being the Chosen One when the vampires come calling or when the alien queen needs the Source of All Light or something. They're too cool to ever, ever do anything like go to prom or listen to music other than jazz while reading poetry. They've always got some story going on that they're heroes of. The rest of us just have to live here, hovering around the edges... Having said that, the indie kids do die a lot. Which must suck. [loc. 170]

A YA paranormal, at least if you go by 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." Except that The Rest of Us Just Live Here isn't about the Chosen One(s), or the end of the world, or vampires (sparkly or otherwise) or the Hellmouth. The teenage heroes of this story -- Mel, Henna, Mikey and Jared -- have other foes to conquer: OCD, sexual identity crises, anorexia, that new kid in school, Mikey's mum's campaign to be senator, prom, and the imminent performance by boy band Bolts of Fire (which Mikey's little sister really wants to see).

There's weird stuff happening, for sure: zombie deer, the God of Cats, et cetera. But the focus is on Mikey and his friends and their difficult relationships with their parents. Turns out you can be just as misunderstood whether you're battling vampires or washing your hands seventeen times. "What happens to you when you get older? Do you just forget everything from before you turned eighteen? Do you make yourself forget?" [loc. 297]

I enjoyed this a great deal, not least because it takes mental illness seriously. There are no miraculous cures (magical or otherwise) to be found here: there is no grand denouement after which everyone's problems are resolved and a bright future awaits all. Instead, it's about coming to terms with what and who you are, choosing your own story, and finding ways to deal with the world.

It's also very funny in places, and very emotional in others: and the two are not mutually exclusive. One of the best YA novels I've read recently.

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