Ever since working in a bookshop (oh, right, you don’t know that yet – HEY I NOW WORK IN A BOOKSHOP YAY, now moving on), I have encountered so many new books (no shit, sherlock) that I’d never seen before. I’ve also met so many wonderful people excited about books which, for a book nerd like me, is incredible. Being able to get excited about a book with someone is so much fun, and I love that social aspect of books. Yes, reading books is a very personal, individual experience, but being able to share your thoughts on a book with someone almost prolongs the magic and lets that book last just a little bit longer.
One thing that I adore about working at a book shop is recommending books and also being recommended books. I was especially recommended an author, a one Patrick Ness, after an event that included him. His admirers were everywhere, and so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that when I revealed that I hadn’t read one of his books a small mob began to form. I so felt inclined to buy his newly released book (and no, not just because it was signed, although that was a big factor) along with one of his most successful novels, The Knife of Never Letting Go. As everyone was talking about the new release, I thought I’d try that one first.
Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully asks what if you weren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death? What if you were 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 might just be the God of mountain lions…
First thing to mention is, The Rest Of Us Just Live Here is definitely a teenage-Young Adult novel, but closer to the teenage fiction side of things. I went in expecting something a little older, but once I recognised that it was for maybe a slightly younger audience my expectations changed drastically.
There are a lot of things in this book that I think worked, and that I liked. There were some aspects of it, however, that weren’t quite to my taste. To start with, I adored the concept. As a big Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan from when I was younger, immediately I could picture the rest of the Sunnyvale as Buffy and co. went off on their slaying adventures. Focusing on those who aren’t the chosen ones is an idea that just works. And so we are introduced to a group of teenagers coming to the end of their school career before university. There’s Mikey, our protagonist who reminds me of the typical character you expect from a John Green book – the gangly, awkward boy who is slightly stereotypically ‘nerdy’ – and, honestly, as a main character I never really decided whether or not I liked him. His best friend, however, was far more interesting – but maybe that was because he wasn’t just a boring outsider, and instead a sort of god of cats, which includes mountain lions. Along with this main pair, you have the sister – who has an eating disorder – and her friend, the kind of love interest, Henna.
Each chapter you get to see what the ‘indie’ kids are doing – aka the not boring chosen ones – and I loved the dry commentary, actually it was possibly my favourite part of the book. The tone of voice used to ‘fill in’ the readers on what was going on with the indie kids was just perfect.
There are of course ten thousand things going on with our main bunch. The main protagonist has severe OCD, and a large part of the novel focuses on his struggles with it. As mentioned earlier, his sister has an eating disorder, and there is also light commentary on sexuality. A lot of angst is placed on the unrequited love of our ‘hero’ if you will, but (don’t worry no spoliers) I appreciated how it ended.
The overall ending of the book was good, but there were a few moments where I couldn’t help but frown and purse my lips, like a true critique. Without giving any spoliers away – and, if you’ve read the book, please comment with your own thoughts but of course warn for spoliers – it had something to do with ‘treatment’ of mental illnesses, and for me it nearly ruined the whole novel.
After looking at some other reviews of the book online, it seems that thoughts on this book vary considerably. Many fans of the author stay as loyal as ever, waxing lyrical about it, yet others comment that it isn’t his best. In fact, someone told me that I should start with The Knife of Never Letting Go – so I’m biding my time until I can start it.
On that note, The Rest of Us Just Live Here did not put me off from reading his other books. Honestly, it was a nice read and I did enjoy it – I just maybe let a bit of the ‘hype’ after the event set my expectations too high. I’ll of course report back once I’ve read another of his books, but for now I give this one a firm three stars.