The Mud and Stars Book Blog

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How to survive when you’re not ‘The Chosen One’… My review of The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

on September 27, 2015


The Rest of Us Just Live Here. Patrick Ness. Walker Books. August 2015.

Not everyone has to be the chosen one.

What if you were Mikey? And just want to graduate and go to prom before someone blows up the high school again?

Patrick Ness’s bold and original novel shows how ordinary lives can be extraordinary and that there are many different types of remarkable.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here was an unusual read, but a refreshing one.

I picked up this book in Waterstones because a) it had a beautiful cover, b) it was by Patrick Ness (who I’d never read before, but had heard wonderful things about), and c) it had the most intriguingly vague blurb I’ve come across for some time. Due to said vague blurb, I went into this novel relatively blind, and had no idea what to expect. I think it’s unfair to say I was disappointed, however this book wasn’t at all what I imagined it to be. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, because I really did – it’s sweet, funny and zany – it’s just that I think I was expecting a little more to happen, plot-wise.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here is the story of Mikey Mitchell, a normal 18 year old guy, living in a middle-of-nowhere town, just trying to make it through the last 4 weeks of high school and graduate without something crazy-weird happening to mess it all up for him. This is proving somewhat difficult, because crazy-weird things are always happening in Mikey’s town. Every generation of teenagers has had its own supernatural mess to sort out. Back in the day, it was the vampires, then it was the soul-eating ghosts… now the town has been infiltrated by some kind of strange blue light which brings deer back from the dead, and shines from the eyes of small-town cops, making them act very sinisterly indeed.

Mikey doesn’t want to be involved in whatever’s going on (although he’s naturally a little curious); he’s not the ‘chosen one’, he’s just a normal guy, and investigating/falling in love with/defeating supernatural enemies isn’t his destiny – the indie kids he goes to school with (a.k.a the ones who have amusingly hipsterish names like ‘Satchel’ and who are too alternative to use social media) are usually the ones who this kind of thing happens to, the ones who end up saving the day.

Besides, Mikey’s got enough real-life problems of his own to worry about… he’s struggling with OCD (and can’t stop getting stuck in loops of obsessive hand washing), he’s been in love with his friend Henna for what feels like forever (but he’s never had a chance or the nerve to tell her how he feels), and he has a virtually non-existent relationship with his useless parents (his dad’s a drunk, who stole from his boss, and his mom, a State Senator who is now running for Congress, seems to care far more about her public image than what’s going on inside her kids’ heads.)

The main storyline of the novel follows Mikey’s everyday life leading up to graduation – his relationships with his friends and the girl he loves, his sisters, and his parents. I really enjoyed the interactions between Mikey and his sisters, Mel and Meredith, and in particular I loved how protective Mikey is over Mel, who is in recovery from an eating disorder. One of the most heart-warming scenes in the novel is where Mel is struggling with a meal, and asks Mikey to feed her. We’re given the impression that both Mel’s and Mikey’s illnesess have worsened in part due to the lack of support from their parents when they needed them the most, and Mikey is always in Mel’s corner when it comes to handling their parents, which I thought made their bond as siblings incredibly tight. I also loved Mikey’s younger sister Meredith (who Mikey and his friend Jared affectionately refer to as Merde Breath), a savvy ten year old, who steals her mom’s credit card, buys tickets to see a Country & Western boyband who are pretty much her reason for breathing, and forces Mikey and Mel to tag along with her. Mikey pretends to hate them, but he definitely comes across as a closet fan!

Running alongside Mikey’s storyline, we get a paragraph instalment of a supernatural sub-plot at the beginning of each chapter, in which indie kid Satchel fights to save the town from the Immortals (the bringers of the strange blue light). Whilst Mikey does have several encounters of the supernatural kind, and does become highly suspicious of new kid Nathan (who he believes must have something to do with all of this), there is very little crossover between these two storylines. The Satchel thread is essentially a satire of your typical YA Fantasy/Paranormal Romance, and all of those clichéd tropes we’ve come to love and loathe in equal measures are mercilessly mocked here: the idea of the ‘chosen one’ who will save us all, insta-love between the heroine and the sexy supernatural prince, love triangles and quadrangles and whatever the word is for a five-way angsty love war, and of course, that all important amulet that will keep the heroine safe, and lead her to the answers she needs to end this whole thing, once and for all. I have to say that, although I have a huge soft spot for the genre, this satirical sub-plot was hilariously on point, and a genius addition to the story.

This novel is unlike anything I’ve ever read, because the supernatural action was a sub-plot, and not really something that was happening to the protagonist directly, or the main point the story was trying to make. Patrick Ness has chosen instead to show us that real life can be just as epic, just as romantic and just as difficult to cope with. I really liked this as a concept, and found it unique and refreshing, however I have to say that I wanted Mikey to go on a much bigger emotional journey, and for more to happen to develop his character, because I didn’t feel that Mikey’s everyday life always matched the excitement and thrill of the types of stories being mocked in the sub-plot.  I guess in a way, I was also expecting Mikey (despite not being the ‘chosen one’) to have more to do with the action, or at least be more affected/phased by the strange stuff that was happening around him. I know I would be!

Despite not being quite what I expected, this book was an entertaining read, with some lovely and humorous observations about real life, and some frankly hilarious ones about fantasy. I felt there was a lot of wisdom in this book, so I’ll leave you with one of my favourite lines:

“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 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 no sense but trying to find a way to be happy anyway.”


8 responses to “How to survive when you’re not ‘The Chosen One’… My review of The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

  1. Great review! I just finished reading this and I couldn’t agree more. One of the vaguest synopsis I have ever read! I love the simplicity of the book. Patrick Ness is a genius!

  2. Nerdybirdy @ Daydreaming Books says:

    Love your review! Now I can’t wait to read this. Hopefully I can grab a copy soon. 🙂

  3. […] of Men, and my emotions were all over the place. I’d only read one Ness book previously (The Rest of Us Just Live Here) and I liked it but I wasn’t all that fussed. But THESE BOOKS… let’s just say I’ve bumped […]

  4. […] How vague and intriguing is that blurb though? If you’d like to know more, you can read my review here. […]

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