There are few authors for whom my eyes light up whenever I see a new book from them, because I know it’s going to be interesting. Patrick Ness is one of those authors. His first books were the utterly amazing “Chaos Walking Trilogy” (to feature in an upcoming book club) and then he followed it up with “A Monster Calls”. All of his books have intriguing premises and “The Rest of Us Just Live Here” is no exception.
The book is a mash-up of two very typical young adult genres: the classic teenage “problem novel” and the “kids chosen by destiny save the world from destruction”. And these stories run alongside each other.
Imagine Harry Potter written from the perspective of the muggles. Or “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” as seen from the perspective of the other kids at school. Mikey and his friends know weird stuff is going on, because something crops up every few years… the undead invasion, the soul-eating ghosts, the vampire romances and deaths. But its always the “indie kids” who have the responsibility of stopping. Mikey isn’t destined. He’s just hoping to get to prom without the school being blown. Again.
Ness borrows a very old-fashioned story gimmick (also used by Eleanor Catton in “The Luminaries”, reviewed a few weeks ago), of a summary paragraph at the beginning of each chapter, describing the action to come. A sample:
Chapter the fifth, in which indie kid Kerouc opens the Gate of the Immortals, allowing the Royal Family and its Court a fissure through which to temporarily enter this world; then Kerouc discovers the Messenger had lied to him; he dies, alone.
Then absolutely none of that is described in more detail in the chapter. So while Mikey and his friends deal with their mundane teenage concerns, this whole supernatural struggle is taking place in background. Half of the indie kids are called Finn, and Ness seems to take great delight in making them as disposable as Star Trek red-shirts.
It’s probably not quite as good as his best books, which set the bar almost impossibly high, but its still a fun read, and a fun take on some well-trod pa