Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick NessThe Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Genre: YA, Science fiction, Metafiction

Publisher: HarperTeen on October 6, 2015

Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

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My thanks to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

A new YA novel from novelist Patrick Ness, author of the Carnegie Medal- and Kate Greenaway Medal-winning A Monster Calls and the critically acclaimed Chaos Walking trilogy, The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a bold and irreverent novel that powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.

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.

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THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE features one of the best YA protagonists I’ve read about in a long time, a resilient and hilarious young man named Mikey. Mikey is a very compelling character, funny and wry in one moment then maudlin and philosophical the next. Patrick Ness does a fantastic job of writing about Mikey’s OCD and anxiety in a realistic way (that can be quite hard to read about, honestly) without turning him into “that OCD character.” Mikey’s mental health struggles don’t define him, and his sister Mel’s battle with anorexia doesn’t define her either. This isn’t an “issue” book that focuses primarily on mental health, it’s a book about realistic characters who grapple with real-life issues.

THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE is a very meta book: the major subplot is a send-up of the “chosen one” narrative, featuring a bunch of indie kids and their leader, a young woman named Satchel. Yes, that’s right – her name is Satchel. Each chapter begins with a little update on Satchel’s story, and we see how the consequences of her story reverberate in the lives of Mikey and his friends. It’s really quite brilliant.

Mikey and Jared’s friendship is so special and powerful. They love each other deeply and try to protect one another. I also appreciated how Patrick Ness handled their sexuality: Jared is openly gay and Mikey is questioning, definitely into girls but maybe guys as well. They have experimented sexually but ultimately decided not to go there, and they remain incredibly close without any weirdness or jealousy. That’s some next-level maturity right there!

Although there aren’t a ton of sci-fi elements in THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE, the ones that do play a role are really interesting (and intentionally kind of hilarious). I don’t want to spoil it for anyone so I’ll only say this: one of the main characters has a very unusual heritage that’s resulted in some very special, albeit unwanted, abilities.

Aside from this, we also see the aftermath of many classic sci-fi and paranormal YA tropes. For example, Mikey’s friend and crush Henna lost her brother when vampires came to their town several years prior. He’s still alive (or is he?) but he’s essentially cut off contact with his hyper-religious family. Henna’s family has never been the same since.

In many ways, THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE is about the ones who get left behind. The people whose ordinary lives are disrupted by epic stories, but never get the starring role. And quite frankly, Mikey and his friends don’t want those starring roles because they almost always end badly! All they want to do is graduate before the high school gets blown up. Again.

If I had to pick a favourite YA book for this year, it would hands down be THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE. Highly recommended for fans of smart, funny, poignant stories. And it’s a great introduction to Patrick Ness’ brilliance, if you’ve not read anything by him before.

 Have you read anything by Patrick Ness? How do you like his writing style? What’s been your favourite YA book this year? Sound off in the comments!

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  • I am definitely reading this before the end of the year! I want to sneak it in just in case it’s one of my top ten YA books, so I can add it to that list. I’m so glad you loved it.

    • I’m happy to hear you plan on reading this one soon, Tammy! Patrick Ness is one of my favourite authors right now and personally I thought this was one of his best novels yet. 🙂

  • I’ve not read anything by Ness before but I think this book has one of the most interesting sounding premises ever – at least to me! Glad it lived up to the awesome idea behind it. I am especially happy to hear that he gives lots of attention to developing characters that feel realistic.

    • Right?! I remember hearing the idea for the first time when the plot synopsis was released and thinking to myself “self, you’re going to love that book.” And here we are, haha. 🙂 Ness’ characters are always seriously on point but this one was especially impressive!

  • Maraia

    This was my 6th Patrick Ness novel, I think, and probably my least favorite. There were certain elements/lines I loved (I thought the mental health issues were handled quite well), but overall I thought it was a bit too exaggerated. I didn’t connect well with any of the characters, despite liking Mikey and Jared’s friendship.
    Have you read any of his other books? The Chaos Walking trilogy and A Monster Calls are more powerful novels, in my opinion.
    My absolute favorite YA contemporary of the year is Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I highly recommend reading it some time when you’re stressed out or unhappy. Even thinking about it makes me smile!

    • Wow, you are a dedicated Patrick Ness fan!

      I’m not really surprised though – you always seem to be up to date on the best YA authors. I know what you mean about some things being over-exaggerated, but I kind of liked that since it’s very…you know, adolescent. Maybe it’s because it wasn’t that long ago that I was a teenager myself (shudder), but I can definitely relate to having some OTT thoughts and reactions to things. 😉

      Oh, you’re absolutely right – A Monster Calls is by far the best Patrick Ness book that I’ve read so far! I really want to read something by Siobhan Dowd too, since it’s my understanding that he adapted the idea after her death. I’ve read the first two books in the Chaos Walking trilogy but that was SO long ago! I think I’ll need to do a complete re-read in order to finish the trilogy.

      I’ve heard such good things about Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda! Everyone and their nana seems to love that book, haha. Apparently it’s adorably shippy as well. Clearly I need to read that one ASAP. Thanks for recommending it, Maraia! 😀

      • Maraia

        Well, I read all of them this year, except for The Knife of Never Letting Go. I know a few bloggers whose friendship was contingent on me reading Patrick Ness, haha. I had actually read TKoNLG a few years ago and hated it (thanks to the vernacular), but I gave it another try and ended up loving it. You should definitely re-read/finish when you get a chance.

        It was mostly the chapter headings that I thought were a bit ridiculous, to be honest. I know that was the point of them, but they didn’t do much for me. As far as teenagers being teenagers goes, I think Patrick Ness got it mostly right. 😀

        For good reason! I’m excited for you to read it.

  • Lynn Williams

    This sounds great. I’ll have to definitely add this to the list. Funny and poignant.
    Lynn 😀

    • Yeah, it was definitely both funny and poignant. Kind of unexpectedly poignant, too! I hope you get a chance to read this one and that you end up enjoying it, Lynn! 🙂

  • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Excellent! I absolutely loved Monster Calls, and was intrigued by this but felt like it could go either way. I’ve been waiting to read reviews, definitely sounds worth reading

    • I really loved that book, too. This is a very different type of book – there’s a lot of humour and it’s considerably less dark, so keep that in mind. I definitely preferred A Monster Calls, but The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a great book (just very different).

  • Love your review for this book, I don’t know if I could call it my favourite YA book of this year, but it was enjoyable. I loved the entire concept of the characters not being the Chosen Ones (or indie kids) but instead being part of ‘everyone else’ who gets affected with the huge storyline which the indie kids are part of. My issue was that I didn’t always like the character of Mikey, I agree that his friendship with Jared was perfect (like seriously amazing) and his sister Mel and his issues were written well without ever becoming what the story was about (which I loved) but Mikey really bothered me as a character. I went from liking him to hating him and that made it really difficult to decide what to think.

    I think I would it call it one of the smartest YA books I’ve read this year. It was written really well and I really enjoyed the little snippets of Satchel’s story you got each chapter and Jared may just be my favourite characters ever (I mean the cat thing and the God thing, totally awesome) I think it was just a case of me not getting the main character, which always sucks, but there’s nothing you can do about that.