[I received this book from its Canadian publisher HarperCollins Canada. This does not affect my review of the novel.]
I’ve been seeing Patrick Ness around the blogosphere for a while now, but I hadn’t had a chance to check his work out until Suman from @HCCFrenzy kindly gifted me a copy of The Rest of Us Just Live Here this summer. And while it took me a chapter or so to get used to the concept of the book and really get into it, I was emotionally attached to all of the characters by the time I was turning the final page. Better yet: I was emotionally attached and crying as I turned the final page. If you ask me, that’s a sure-fire way to make me give a book 5 stars.
“They better not blow up the high school again,” Jared says. “My cousin had to have his graduation ceremony in the parking lot.” – pg 9
The Rest of Us Just Live Here has been compared to Buffy the Vampire Slayer a lot, but instead of following the “Chosen Ones” (or “indie kids” in Ness’ world), the story focuses mainly on a group of friends during their last few weeks of high school: there’s Mikey, an anxious boy who has the tendency to get stuck in “loops”; Mikey’s sister Mel, who has her own demons to overcome; Henna, the daughter of a music minister and a Finnish foot doctor; and Jared, who is “three-quarters Jewish, one-quarter God” (pg 74). I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know these “ordinary” characters, and I was so impressed by how well-developed they were. (Extra shout out to Meredith, Mikey and Mel’s younger sister, who absolutely stole my heart. I loved her.) Everyone is facing their own unique set of problems, whether it be about mental health, family, or secrets that they feel like they can’t disclose. Ness treats them all as individuals, and never claims to speak for anyone but his characters.
“I can’t tell you what’s real for you. But in return, you can’t say what’s real for me either. I get to choose. Not you.” – pg 77
On top of this, Ness does a fantastic job at showing the anxieties that come with starting a new chapter in life: will the group of friends keep in touch even when they’re all separated? Will they all forget each other when they’re off living their lives apart from one another? These common anxieties recur throughout the book, and they make this fantastic novel about mysterious lights and “indie kids” universal.
Speaking of the more fantastic side of the novel, I love how each chapter in The Rest of Us Just Live Here starts with an update on the “indie kids.” It cements the fact that the book is indeed about the “unchosen ones,” and the “chosen ones” are merely operating in the background. That being said, Mikey and his group of friends do interact with some of the strange elements of the town, and it’s thrilling and exciting to read about. (I was reading this book on the couch while my boyfriend had some friends over one night, and I audibly gasped at one part. Not embarrassing at all…) The stakes just keep getting higher and higher for the characters as the novel progresses, and it makes for a gripping and compelling read with a spectacular conclusion.
I find it especially hard to review books that I’ve loved, so I’ll just end my review with this: whether you’re looking for some adventure or just a really really well-plotted and well-written novel, The Rest of Us Just Live Here is the perfect choice.
Verdict: While the background story in The Rest of Us Just Live Here is fantastic and strange (mysterious lights that have been killing Chosen Ones!), its main characters are universally relatable. Whether you’re about to start a new chapter in life, have secrets you feel like you could never share, or are simply just trying to get by, you will love this book.
Read if: You’ve ever been interested in reading about those who aren’t chosen to fight monsters and vampires, you want to read a touching story about friendship, you want to read a book that will move you to tears.
Are you a fan of Patrick Ness? Will you be checking out The Rest of Us Just Live Here?