In a world where monsters, vampires, and the apocalypse are never far off, Mikey is a regular kid trying to graduate, go to prom, and work up the courage to ask a girl out. He is not the chosen one. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have problems to solve and challenges to face. The Rest of Us Just Live Here takes the spotlight off the indie kids, the ones destined to fight the forces of evil, and explores the lives of a group of teenagers who don’t have magic powers (except for Mikey’s best friend, who happens to be a demigod) as they navigate high school, dating, and survival.
So, despite the fact that Patrick Ness is an award-winning author, I’d never heard of him until Book Expo America, and didn’t really consider checking out his books until this fall when he started a chain reaction of fundraising efforts for the Syrian refugee crisis. The buzz attracted me, and I thought, hey this guy sounds like a decent human being, I should check him out. That’s when I learned of The Rest of Us Just Live Here, which I quickly added to my TBR lists because it sounds like a hilarious antidote to formulaic fantasy/sci-fi adventures in which a teenager is “chosen” to save the planet.
Well, I am happy to announce that the novel was what I hoped and still managed to surprise me. I thought the story would be a side-kick tale, showing all the details of a save-the-universe plot but from the perspective of the hero’s friend. Instead, Ness masterfully refocuses the traditional hero narrative on outsiders, on the kids who know that things are happening but aren’t a part of the fight at all. I described it to a friend as Buffy, but from the POV of any of the Sunnydale kids who weren’t involved with the Scoobies or the various villains they faced.
The story focuses on Mikey, his sister Mel, his crush Henna, and his best friend (the demigod) Jared. In fact, the hero stuff is almost entirely relegated to the beginning of the chapter “in which” descriptions. These quick chapter entrance summaries are brilliant for the way they poke fun at the tropes present in teen fantasy/adventure (Oh, the love triangles! Who can she really trust?). I loved the juxtaposition between these and the truer-to-real-life issues Mikey and his friends face – it really flipped the idea of “it’s the end of the world, there are more important things than personal problems” on its head.
The personal problems that Mikey and his gang face include dealing with parents who aren’t fully supportive, the mental health issue of anxiety, OCD, and anorexia, and the stress of the impending end of life as they know it (meaning the end of high school and departure for different universities, not the apocalypse the indie kids are fighting off in the background). Having dealt with change at the end of high school and now as my friends and I have finished our bachelors degrees and are trying to figure out life, I felt like I knew a little of what these kids were facing and I appreciated the honesty with which Ness approaches these subjects. The idea that “everyone has something” – whether it’s being worshiped by cats or feeling like you’re the least desired person in the room – is a simple, yet poignant message.
I’d say more, but you might as well just read it yourself.
Final verdict: The Rest of Us Just Live Here is definitely worth picking up if you want a refreshing take on teen adventure. It’s fun, irreverent, and quick to get in to.