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

October 2, 2015 / 11 Comments / Review, Uncategorized

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

Author: Patrick Ness
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication date: October 6th 2015
Source: ARC from BEA15
My rating:
Buy It: | | The Book Depository | iBooks | Google Books | Audible

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 worshiped by mountain lions.

Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.

Warning: There is some profanity in this book and this review – it’s not extreme, but it might be something that puts some parents off. 

I’m gonna tell it to you straight: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness is bit of a roast. It’s funny, it’s snarky, and it doesn’t hold back on making fun of some of the conventional concepts and ideas in YA books right now.

This is only my second Patrick Ness book (my first was The Knife of Never Letting Go), but it’s vastly different from the one I read before, which was a straight-up dystopian (but it came out ages before dystopian became a trend…and it’s REALLY good).

What Ness tries to do with The Rest of Us Just Live Here is, to me, far more experimental. He’s assigned himself the task of putting the “normal” kids – the kids that no one ever focuses on in paranormal, dystopian, or fantasy reads – at the forefront of the book instead of as background. Instead of the Buffy‘s of the world, we get to focus on the Jonathans. Instead of Edward, Jacob and Bella, we get the Jessica’s of the world.

“We dream the same in my town as you probably do in a city. We yearn the same, wish the same. We’re just as screwed up and brave and false and loyal and wrong and right as anyone else. And even if there’s no one in my family or my circle of friends who’s going to be the Chosen One or the Beacon of Peace of whatever the hell it’s going to be next time around, I reckon there are a lot more people like me than there are indie kids with unusual names and capital-D Destinies.”

Our narrator and protagonist, Mikey, calls those Buffys, Edwards, Bellas, and Jacobs, the “indie kids.” Ness never really defines the term “indie kid” other than it being the kids that all the “big” things in town happen to. Yes, he jokes about them being too cool to even think of going to prom or attending graduation, but for Mikey and his friends, the indie kid title is just a catch-all for the kids that are usually the main characters. And the point of the book is that Mikey, Henna, Mel, and Jared have just as much stuff happening to them – it might not be paranormal stuff, but it’s important stuff nonetheless.

“Not everyone has to be the Chosen One. Not everyone has to be the guy who saves the world. Most people just have to live their lives the best they can, doing the things that are great for them, having great friends, trying to make their lives better, loving people properly. All the while knowing that the world makes not sense but trying to find a way to be happy anyway.”

And it’s real and it’s deeply compelling. Ness intersperses each chapter with a summary of what’s going on in the indie kids’ world (they’re being invaded by a group called the Immortals, and there’s magic amulets and blue lights and fissures in dimensions), but the rest of the book is just the arc of Mikey’s life: finish high school, hang out with his sisters and make sure they’re okay, get the courage to ask out his love interest, and try not to succumb to all of the pressures (including his parents) that are making his anxiety and OCD crop up again. I was engaged the entire way through, and not just because I’m a YA contemporary reader. I really believe that anyone who loves spec fic will find this book just as funny, and Mikey’s battle is just as important, if not more important than the one that the indie kids face.

“…I hate myself. I feel like an idiot saying it because, blah, blah, teen angst, boo hoo, but I do. I hate myself. Almost all the time. I try not to tell anyone because I don’t want to burden them, but I feel like I’m falling farther and farther away from them. Like the well’s getting deeper and I’m running out of energy to climb it and any minute now, any second, it’s going to stop being worth even trying.”

Ness’ writing is poignant and voice-perfect for teens about to graduate high school; the book doesn’t judge, but presents Mikey’s journey in the clearest and most natural way possible – for a town that has faced vampires, soul-sucking ghosts and the reconstruction of a high school more than once.

Mikey and his friends never ignore the weirdness going on, but they choose to try to focus on being together and present enough to enjoy each other. It’s actually kind of beautiful watching them struggle through these last few weeks, saving each other from zombies and explosions, but also saving each other from their own fears and lives.

If there’s one thing I didn’t like, it’s that maybe Ness pushed the indie kid point a little too hard – it’s a little biting to hear him talk about the indie kids’ appearance and the YA tropes that keep appearing (at one point, a character says, “This is worse than when all of the indie kids were dying beautifully of cancer”). I know Ness likes to keep it real, but some of the indie kid stuff, especially with their appearance, just felt judgey. That said, Ness knows his characters, and though he rides the fine line between the characters being judgey and the book being judgey, I don’t feel like he actually crosses it with the book.


friendshipgangScooby Gang: Ness is a master of the character development and friendships – Mikey’s arc is tightly woven with his crush on Henna, his attempt to save his sister Mel from herself, and his desire to stay close to his best friend Jared in spite of the looming end of high school. Each of these characters plays a role in his development, but they also all have arcs of their own, some of it happening right in plain sight for Mikey, but some of it also in the background, building on the idea that everyone is a main character in their own lives.

Book Theme Song:

Miguel – What’s Normal Anyway? 

Too opinionated for the pacifist, too out of touch to be in style
Too broke for the rich kids, I don’t know what normal is

What’s normal anyway? 
Be in a crowd and not feel alone, I look around and not feel alone
I never feel like I belong, I wanna feel like I belong, somewhere

Don’t let them change you, just be who you are

The Final Word

Funny, well edited, and compassionate, The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a book that is both satirical and real. It’s a book that deals extremely well with mental health, addiction, and other issues, but never feels like a book ABOUT that. What it does feel like is a book about characters who know they might not always be the stars, but try to live like they are anyway – and they absolutely should.

THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE comes out on October 6 in North America. Will you be picking up a copy? What’s your least favorite YA trope or concept? Are you an indie kid or a normal kid? 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Want more YA reviews and bookish fun? Get Mostly YA Lit in your inbox and be the first to get notified on new updates.

11 responses to “Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

  1. Cee

    I love Patrick Ness so much, and The Rest of Us Just Live Here is another top book. (Not my favorite, but still wonderfully good. Btw, you should definitely read More Than This if you love found families. It’s such a weird and unexpected book. You’ll definitely go WTF, lol. A hit and a miss depending on the person, but totally worth it imo.)

    The Rest of Us Just Live Here is definitely funny and so clever! I found myself laughing at the beginning excerpts of what the indie kids were doing because it’s what happens in those paranormal chosen one YA books. I love all the characters he created. They just want to be normal, and that’s totally okay. Nobody would want to be the Chosen One if they had to go through those kids of shit. I really cared for characters, especially the siblings which gave me a boatload of feels. I need more Patrick Ness!

    • I know, I need to get the rest of his books. I just got The Crane Wife, and I need to finish Chaos Walking.

      I’ve been really into the idea of NOT being an indie kid – and it being okay to just survive lately – I totally agree with you that no one would want to be the Chosen one if they had to watch their friends die. And in fact, in Buffy, in Hunger Games, they’re all pretty reluctant about it. That’s kind of what people don’t really think about – and I think that’s what Patrick is tapping into here.

      The part that really got me was the scene where Mikey goes to the psychiatrist. ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT. What was your fave part, Cee?

  2. i havent read any patrick ness books! but ive heard so many good things about the rest of us just live here omG AND I CANT WAIT TO READ IT. he’s actually going to dublin as a part of a book con and im still debating whether i should go hmm. cos it os like 30 euros. great review though! definitely bumping this book up on my tbr <333

    xxx isha

    • YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY GO TO DUBLIN AND SEE HIM. I mean, if you are able to, financially (obviously, you should not go if you’re not going to eat for a day because of it). Meeting Patrick Ness was probably one of the highlights of my book blogging career ever because he is RIDONKULOUSLY charming and funny and snarky, and you will fall in love and immediately want to read all of his books. I call him my “author-husband” for this very reason. Go! =)

    • Oh, it’s totally a Scooby Gang, with Xander as the lead. Sort of. It’s like if The Zeppo was a long-form novel. But it’s funny. A little mean, but funny and truthful and poignant. I think you’ll like it, Nicole, and I think you’ll notice all the hilarious satirical things Ness puts in about YA trends. =)

  3. Sounds like an interesting book! I haven’t read any of his stuff, but this one sounds cool. I don’t know how I feel about some of the tropes he was making fun of, like the cancer kids, but it still sounds good!

  4. I definitely think I need to pick this book up again when I have less on my plate. I enjoyed what I read during my first attempt but my mind just wasn’t in the right place for it right then.

  5. I had never read a Ness book until More Than This, and that book left me with a desire to never miss another of his books. The Rest of Us Just Live Here was an amazing story, with some of the most well written characters. Your review was much more eloquent than mine could ever be, but the point was the same. Ness has something special with this story, and I am glad that I got to experience it. And I definitely encourage EVERYONE to give it a try.

  6. Keith Bascom

    Thanks a lot, this really is a truly awsome article! Thanks for the info, super helpful. By the way, if anyone is facing a problem of merging PDF files, I’ve found a free service here

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.