Title: The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Author: Patrick Ness
Check this book out on Goodreads.
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 worshipped by mountain lions. (Source: Goodreads)
Mike isn’t the Chosen One, none of his friends are either. The Chosen One tends to be an indie kid, and they’re always fighting vampires and Gods while the rest of the world goes on around them. In fact, they’re currently fighting off an invasion by the Immortals. All the while Mike is trying to deal with his OCD, and his sister’s anorexia, and his best friend’s God powers, and his massive crush on Henna, and the new kid. It’s almost time for the entire group to graduate, will they get wrapped up in the Immortal invasion? Probably not. But they’ve got bigger things to deal with.
I don’t know what to feel about this book, there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with it, it just didn’t stick with me. Which sucks because Ness’s previous book More Than This stuck with me for ages after I read it, it left me with chills. I’d already started to forget this book by the time I finished reading it. I think the idea of looking at the rest of the world around a Chosen One was interesting but it just felt so bland and mundane despite the fact that Ness had the groundwork laid for some really compelling characters.
Mike is the child of a politician Mother and alcoholic Father. He has OCD and anxiety, constantly getting stuck in loops of hand washing and obsessively counting. This terrifying accuracy of Ness’s representation of OCD was striking and painful to work through as Mike washes his hands til the skin peels away and he’s left bleeding. Mike is admittedly kind of a whiny protagonist, this makes the book a bit of a chore. He has anxiety though, and we are subject to his thoughts, which are rather dark, mopey, whiny, and accurate to the trials of anxiety. One thing Ness certainly nails is his representation of mental health in this book. All of this comes to a head in a tense scene where Mike visits a psychiatrist who talks to him about treatment. Mike is a very human lead and really could have been a compelling person to follow, I don’t really know where Ness went wrong.
Other characters are equally compelling. Mike’s sister, Mel, is recovering from a near death experience the previous year when she starved herself to death. She is sweet and charming, a really loveable character. Henna, Mike’s crush, is going off to spend her summer in war torn Africa as a missionary. She was probably not my favourite character but had the groundwork for a really interesting romantic lead. Then Mike’s best friend, Jared, is probably the most unbelievably nice and sweet and charming character in this book. He’s also part Cat God, which is hilarious and wonderful. He’s the nearest miss in terms of being the Chosen One, and it’s really wonderful.
So what’s the issue? It’s so hard to pinpoint. I felt like the story didn’t really go anywhere at all. There was just this sort of meandering series of events happening. It felt nearly contemporary but without any endgame set-up. I think there was some fairly well written character development in some ways for Mike as he tries to deal with his OCD and improve his life, but I also think there were a lot of misses in this area as his obsession with Henna didn’t really go anywhere, didn’t even really end when an end was established.
I also feel like I didn’t really connect to the message or the intentions of the plot. Maybe I’m not in the target range? I don’t know. The issue of being or not being the Chosen One didn’t really feel that important, despite this being the sort of promised premise in my mind. The Chosen One stuff that happened at the beginning of each chapter often felt out of place, it tied in towards the end of the book, but really just felt out of place and also hard to really make fit in my mind initially as somehow relevant to the story. I don’t know what went wrong honestly.
This wasn’t a bad book. It was well written, it had an interesting idea, and really fantastic characters. It just wasn’t what I was expecting, and fell short of my expectations. It’s worth a read, but I’d definitely recommend other Ness books over this one.