Patrick Ness has nothing to prove, and this book is yet more evidence of his formidable talent. He has taken every one of the paranormal tropes so common in YA at the moment, and pulled them all into one brilliant story about Mikey and his friends, “normal” kids just trying to finish their final year at high school without any paranormal interruptions.
Mikey remembers the vampires who made everyone fall in love with them, and he knows about the undead soul-eaters from when his parents were teens, but he has never had anything to do with them, because he’s not an indie kid. The indie kids are the ones who usually have to save the world, and when they begin to die once again, Mikey is not surprised. As the title says, the rest of them just live there.
He has other things going on his life. He is in love with his friend Henna, his sister is showing signs of back-sliding into anorexia, his mum is running for Congress, he is in a car crash with a possessed deer, and he keeps getting stuck in loops…again. Mikey has OCD, and is rapidly veering into depression. One of the stand-out sections of the book is when Mikey finally goes to see a shrink:
“…I feel like I’m at the bottom of a well. I feel like I’m way down this deep, deep hole and I’m looking up and all there is is this little dot of light and I have to shout at the top of my lungs for anyone to hear me and even when I do, I say the wrong thing or they don’t really listen or they’re just humouring me.”
The response that the shrink has to Mikey’s explanations is very good, and highlights the essential problems of being a teenager, without belittling what is a serious mental illness – not “just teen angst.” I hope that the teens who read this and recognise something of themselves in what Mikey says gain courage from Mikey’s actions.
Mikey’s best friend Jared is a bit of an enigma throughout the novel. He is quarter-god, as his grandma is the goddess of cats (who is back in the realms just now) – this fact is underlined by the line-up of cats that appear whenever Jared uses the healing abilities that go with his genes.
Ness tells the stories of the indie kids in the prefaces to each chapter. This could be galling, but somehow works – we get that the characters are intended to be just anybody, while waiting in the coming chapters for the outcome of each preface’s activities. Dead bodies appear, people, deer and even lions, acquire glowing blue eyes.
This is a pitch-perfect graduation story with a paranormal twist, which gets right into the heads of the teenagers it is targeted at.
My 16-year-old reviewer Tierney Reardon confirmed my view of the book, saying ‘It’s one of the best books I’ve read all year (and I’ve read quite a few!)… It covered so many important, relevant topics that you don’t see all that often in YA novels (like anxiety issues, anorexia and obsessive compulsive disorder), but it did so in such a light way – the book was still a hilarious read. The idea behind it is so wonderfully original, and I’m sure I’ll be rereading it sometime soon. Mikey is one of my new favourite book characters.’
Reviewed by Sarah Forster, with help from Tierney Reardon
The Rest of Us Just Live Here
by Patrick Ness
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781406331165 – Hardback