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

by Sharon Browning

The Rest of Us Just Live HereThe Rest of Us Just Live Here
Patrick Ness
Harper Teen
Release Date:  October 6, 2015
ISBN 978-0-06-240316-2

Did you ever read a book, or a series of books where strange, supernatural things happened in what would otherwise be considered “normal” towns, and wonder what the other, more mundane folks who lived where sparkly vampires or undead zombies or soul-eating ghosts roamed must have thought about the strange goings on?  The ones that weren’t part of the action, but simply average, every day people who just happened to live there?

Patrick Ness must have wondered about it, because he wrote a witty, wonderful book about just those kind of folks.  Well, kind of.

Mikey is pretty much the epitome of normal.  He’s a senior in high school, lives in a nuclear family, has a small group of tight friends including a girl he’s had a crush on forever and yet has never been able to tell her how he feels.  He’s a pretty good student, and is set to head off in the fall to a college far enough away to feel like he’ll be striking out on his own.  But first he has to get through prom and graduation.

This, too, is normal:  he has anxiety issues and lately has been struggling with pretty severe OCD symptoms.  His older sister, Mel, had – has – an eating disorder.  His mother is a state senator looking to run for higher office, his dad is an alcoholic.  His best friend is a linebacker of a guy who just happens to be gay (not a problem for Mikey) and who, incidentally, is half god and is worshipped by cats.  Okay, maybe that last bit isn’t exactly normal, but to Mikey, it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here follows Mikey and his friends through their senior year, dealing with issues such as love, friendship, separation and independence, but it is set against the backdrop of the supernatural.  There is another faction at his high school – the indie kids – who are obviously caught up in some sort of epic struggle against evil.  Mikey and his friends are not indie kids (you know, the ones who have “cool-geek” haircuts and wear thrift store clothes and have names like Finn and Dylan and Satchel), which is probably a good thing because the indie kids have a history of dying at the hands of soul-eating ghosts and vampires and the like while they’re trying to save the world.  Not all the time, but in a fairly regular cycle.  Which is too bad, because the indie kids really are kind of nice, even if they always tend to stick to their own.

So you have a set of “ordinary” kids who are going through “ordinary” issues set in a place where something huge and otherworldly is happening, but not to them, except when the ripples of it affect the rest of the community… which, in a way, is also kind of ordinary, at least for them.  It’s a wonderful convention, allowing for a tongue-in-cheek absurdity (in which teenagers seem to excel), mixed in with normal coming-of-age issues, and occasionally dropping into the deeper, more acute concerns – such as mental health, addiction and family dynamics – that gives the book a heft and a heart that is earnest rather than heavy-handed.

It’s quite refreshing.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here is truly a superlative book, one that should appeal to a wide spectrum of kids and adults alike.  Cheeky enough to get you chuckling, freaky enough to be enticing, honest enough to feel real, it touches the head, the heart and the funny bone in equal amounts.  Even if you consider yourself one of the indie kids.

~ Sharon Browning

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