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Book Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here

April 26, 2016

The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Patrick Ness
Hardcover, 323 Pages, August 2015
(from personal collection)

I. Loved. This. Book.

It had been sitting on my shelf for a while, so I made sure to put it on my Readathon list for the weekend. Coffee in hand, I began my day and I began reading.

I didn’t move from the couch for about the next three hours. I tried to muffle giggles, because my parents were still asleep. There were a lot of bits that made me laugh, both situations, and just little clever turns of phrase.

The humor plays mostly deadpan against strangeness, in a way that I can see appealing to fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Welcome to Nightvale. I found this book more satisfying than the best episodes of either, honestly.

Here’s the blurb:

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 worshiped by mountain lions.

One of the things I loved and laughed about was the way the setup of an ordinary group of friends surrounded by Chosen Ones and Strange Circumstances just gets on with high school. At most, they’re frustrated or annoyed by things like glowing blue lights, indie kids with names like Satchel,  and the prospect that the high school might blow up (again) before graduation. The entire book was immensely satisfying in the way it poked at the conventions of overwrought supernatural YA romance, or even well-balanced supernatural YA. I’ve seen other reviewers reference Xander from Buffy, and I see it. I have a voracious appetite for seeing how ordinary mortals cope with supernatural/genre circumstances when they’re just trying to get on with things. So this was firmly in my sweet spot. I giggled.

But it wasn’t just a purely funny book, played for laughs and absurdity. It was better, more whole and nuanced than that. Mikey is the one telling the story. We learn his take on his friends: their history, in-jokes, wrangles when a new student joins them senior year. And his family is normal. Not perfect. Normal. His parents are absorbed in their own problems and goals. One sister is obsessed with a band. There’s some discussion of mental illness. But it’s shown, and done sensitively and well, rather than “bravely” like an afterschool special or as a trope.

Anything that has a whiff of trope gets examined as part of the story, and then humanized in its ordinariness, or turned on its head to be wise and absurd. Or absurdly wise.

For all the supernatural blue lights and possessed deer, this was a wonderful, human book, and a celebration of ordinary, real teenagers making the best of weird things.

Put it on the shelf next to other books I loved for the same reason:

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey

The Shattering by Karen Healey

You should read all of those books. But especially this one.

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tanja permalink
    April 29, 2016 6:56 am

    Your review is really well written, I heard about this book before and I’m definitely gonna read it now.

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