There’s only so many times you can hear about a book before you say “okay, I’ve got to read this thing.” I loved Patrick Ness’s YA series Chaos Walking, but hadn’t read anything else by him. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a satirical take on the typical YA novel, but it’s also an authentic look into the lives of teenagers.
The Good Bits.
What stuck out to me the most in this novel was how realistic it was. Hear me out here. Yes, there are weird immortal beings running around killing people. Yes, one of his friends is part cat-God (I know, what?). And yes, there’s a character named Satchel. But the concept is that the people who aren’t involved still have to live their lives. Only the ‘indie kids’ are running around doing the Bella Swan, Katniss Everdeen, and Harry Potter type activities. What the reader gets from Ness is a look at characters that would normally be ‘stock townsfolk’.
Mickey is both intrigued and frustrated by the whole ‘indie kid’ scene. On one hand he doesn’t want get involved, and on the other he wants to know what’s going on. In a typical YA novel, Mickey would nose his way into the ‘indie kid’ group and become the chosen hero they’ve been looking for all along. In fact, I kept waiting for this to happen. But it doesn’t, because that’s not what this book is about! Instead you learn about the mental health issues Mickey and his sister suffer through. They’re not dramatic, or gimmicky, or even the most important thing about his character. As I sat there and took that in, I couldn’t get over how amazing it is to see something like that in a novel. So often, the character with a mental illness is so off the rails you wonder how they’re functioning, or they’re a psycho killer, and so on and so forth. When in fact a lot of people have mental illness and it’s far more subtle.
The relationships within the novel are also mature and forward thinking. There’s a scene where Mickey talks about his best friend Jared, who is gay. He says that they used to fool around and that he enjoyed it, but couldn’t see himself in a relationship with a man. Maybe I’m not as in touch with the youths of today (having been out of highschool for 6-ish years now) but I found this refreshing. How many times as a teen do you see something that says it’s okay to explore, and like what you did, but still identify as otherwise?
Alright, I’m almost done gushing. While incorporating all these great elements The Rest of Us Just Live Here is still funny, and cute, and interesting. It’s satire, but it also has all the elements that you would enjoy in a YA novel.
“His lips taste of honey and vegan patchouli”. Fantastic line from The Rest of Us Just Live Here @Patrick_Ness
— Lunch-Time Librarian (@lunchtimelib) October 6, 2015
If my rating didn’t give it away, I have few negative things to say about this novel. Mickey can be annoying sometimes, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a book when the main character didn’t annoy/frustrate me at some point.
The only issue I have is a scene where Mickey visits his therapist. The clear goal is to show that mental illness, like physical illness, can require medication and there’s nothing wrong with taking it. Great message, no issue with that. But did it have to be so blatantly obvious that that’s the only reason the scene exists? It’s like when The Secret Life of the American Teenager rattles off statistics about why you shouldn’t do drugs. I think there was a more natural way that Ness could have delivered the message.
The Last Bite.
The Rest of Us Just Live Here is satire with a motive. Ness has a great balance between poking fun at YA trends and doing it without putting those books down. He has his own post-apocalyptic trilogy after all (which I highly recommend)! He also addresses a lot of issues that don’t get as much attention in books where kicking down doors and taking names are the focus. Take a break from a trilogy and pick this book up!
Do you think more books should address mental illness? Or is it already well represented? Let me know!
Did you read the book? What did you think? Who was your favourite character??
Let’s do lunch again next week!
*please note, if you purchase the book through the link provided I will receive a commission. However, this is not a sponsored post. I was not paid to write it, and all my opinions are my own