American author Patrick Ness is becoming well-known for his recent young adult novels. Before reading his most recent, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, I had heard amazing reviews about his books. He has won many awards for his writing and is about to make his debut in screenplays. Ness gained a huge amount of popularity from his book A Monster Calls, which is being adapted as a movie starring Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver, and Felicity Jones. Having heard so much about him from friends, I was really looking forward this book. While it is nothing like what I had expected, I can honestly say that I was not disappointed. In fact, The Rest of Us Just Live Here quickly became one of my many favorite books.
The premise of the book is that the main characters are the ordinary, regular, seemingly unimportant characters in the heroes story. It focuses on a group of teens dealing with very realistic life issues and facing the collateral damage of what’s going on in the dramatic, life-or-death, chosen-one storylines around them. They’re merely the extras to the Harry Potters, Katniss Everdeens, and Tris Priors of the world.
The story is told from the viewpoint of Mikey, who is definitely not the Chosen One. He and his friends are nearing graduation – as the date gets closer and closer, the group fights to make it through alive (literally). Mikey finds himself not only struggling with the “indie kids”, who are consistently in the middle of saving the world, but also the fear of his close group of friends, his family, and his future falling apart.
The book explores many issues that are prominent in our everyday lives as teens. Between the five friends, the story deals with serious issues like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as romance, jealousy, betrayal, maturity, family issues, taking on responsibility, zombie deer, and the general chaos that is living in a small conservative town.
I admit that listing those out, it seems kind of heavy, deep, and even a little cheesy. While I think that all are great subjects that should be explored in YA novels, cramming so much into just a few hundred pages was a bit intimidating. I especially wasn’t fond of the bland romance forced into the storyline.
However, Ness makes up for it with his humor and style. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is full of satire and sarcasm. The characters are hilarious and quick-witted, and Ness’ way of writing is entertaining. Ness pokes fun at popular fantasy book tropes and clichés throughout the story.
Overall, this book is weird, odd, sometimes tacky, and great. The author’s take on approaching the future and gaining maturity relates to the uncertainty and anxiety that all teenagers face.
Throughout, Ness’ message is clear – you’re the main character of your own story, and you are important. You don’t have to be the hero to find your place, to be loved, and to be accepted.
As sappy as that is, it’s something everyone should be reminded of.
“Not everyone has to be the Chosen One. Not everyone has to be the guy who saves the world. Most people just have to live their lives the best they can, doing things that are great for them.”