I bought The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness to take on holiday with me in October half term. I never got round to reading it until now. I’m so glad I squeaked it in before the end of the year because it is absolutely up there as one of my top ten reads of 2015, if not at the very top. I loved it.
There really isn’t anything bad to say about it. It’s clever and funny and poignant. It’s beautifully written and utterly engrossing, and if I hadn’t allowed real life to get in the way I’d have read the whole thing in one marathon sitting, as it was I ate it up over the last two days.
Mike lives in a backwoods, out of the way town somewhere in America. He’s in his last year of high school, as is his beloved sister Mel, who although older than him, had to retake a year thanks to recovering from an eating disorder. Mike has a form of OCD that leads him to repeat behaviours like washing his hands over and over again. They live with their younger sister Meredith (the normal one), and their parents, a mother who is running for office and a drunken father. They have a close knit group of friends including Henna who Mike is in love with, and Jared, his best friend, who all have problems of their own, some of them more surprising than others.
So far, so teen novel.
Except that things are complicated by the fact that every few years, something supernaturally awful happens, not just in Mike’s town, but all over the USA. Teenagers are caught up in apocalyptic happenings, and the ones that survive watch as their high schools explodes and their world falls apart around them. The adults write off all the happenings, and the kids are left to deal with things as best they can. It makes navigating the choppy waters of adolescence even more fraught thanks to having to also contemplate the end of the world, both physically and metaphorically in terms of their transition to almost adulthood.
Mike though, is not going to save the world from supernatural danger. He feels like he can barely save himself. That’s left to the group they call the Indie kids, who always seem to be caught up in these happenings and who have to stop the apocalypse at great cost to their own safety and lives.
Mike and his friends are just ‘the rest of us’ from the title. Except that they become so much more than that.
What we see here is the back story brought to the forefront of the novel. Each chapter opens with a brief synopsis of what the Indie kids are doing. The rest of the chapter is told through Mike’s eyes, throwing into relief how everyone else gets through life which is already complicated enough without all the strange goings on.
I don’t think I’ve explained this very well, but believe me, it’s a total gem, particularly if you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which absolutely informs this book through and through. It is like looking at seasons of Buffy through the wrong end of a telescope. The characters are wonderful. The plot is fantastic. The story is genius. The writing is taut and suspenseful and clever. The whole concept is fresh and exciting to read. The humour is on point, and I just want to rush out and buy everyone I know a copy and force them to read it.
It’s perfect for teens aged 13 and up. It deals with mental health issues and teen sexuality which is why I wouldn’t recommend it for primary aged children. It’s the best sort of coming of age novel. It’s the best sort of novel really.