All right for the rest of you…

The Rest of Us Just Live HereThe Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I first finished reading this book, I was angry. I felt ripped off – that Patrick Ness had not made the most of the amazing characters he had created, and that he was resting on his laurels too much. But. The more I think about this novel, the more I see it is probably a work of genius. The mere fact that 4 weeks after finishing it, I am STILL thinking about it, is testament to just how good Ness is. This novel got under my skin – it made me sit up and take notice, and it made me question what I thought I knew about fiction. And that’s a good thing.
Mikey suffers from OCD. He sometimes gets himself into a repetitive behaviour loop that is hard to break out of. But his sister, Mel, and his best friend, Jared are there to help pull him out of the worst of it. They have a close group of friends who hang out together a lot, but Mikey carries a torch for Henna who doesn’t take much notice of him. They live in a town where weird things happen, but never specifically to them. There are grisly deaths a-plenty in their unnamed town, but the victims are the “indie” kids with names like Satchel, Dylan, or Finn.
Each chapter heading outlines a different story to the one in the body of the novel. We follow the story of the indie kids, who are dropping like flies and being subjected to terrible violence, as headlines in a kind of newspaper that only we can see. Indie kids have battled vampires, soul sucking demons and so on, and nobody, it appears, from Mikey’s part of town helped them. The indie kids are the disenfranchised part of this society, but not just in this town – everywhere. Jokes are made about their deaths. People treat their deaths as something to be expected, something unavoidable that is part of life in the town. Now there is something brewing – pillars of light appearing and disappearing, indie kids recruiting and enslaving other indie kids. It’s a freak show.
Meanwhile Mikey and his mates are living their lives with “normal” teen problems. They clash with parents, worry about school and agonise over relationships. Mel is a recovering anorexic, Jared is strong and caring, Henna is torn between her affections for two guys – all the usual stuff. But they are not normal. Jared is the son of a God, Mikey has close encounters with indie kids with glowing eyes and Henna nearly dies in a car crash.
I realise now, as I write this review, that there is almost too much going on in this novel. I can’t reveal too much more without giving spoilers, but I think this is why I struggled to like this book after first finishing it. There is a lot here, and I think this book requires multiple readings to get a grasp on what is going on inside it. Far from being the waste of time I originally thought it was, it is a novel of layers – many layers – that have to be peeled back with more than one pass at the text.
Read it. Challenge yourself to read it at least twice. Tell me I’m crazy, and then read it again. Seriously. I think I am finally starting to get this book and what it is trying to tell me.
First impressions are great, but to find the heart of something you need to dig, and dig, and dig some more. There is treasure here. Be patient – it might take you a while to see it.
Suitable for ages 14 and up.

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