The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Published: October 6th 2015 by HarperTeen
Format: Paper Book
Length: 317 pages
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance, GLBT, Urban Fantasy
Rating: 2.5 stars
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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 worshipped by mountain lions.
Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.
I seem to be stuck in a string of books where I have great expectations but end up with lackluster results. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness has an awesome premise. What are the ordinary kids, the kids who aren’t ‘The Chosen One’, doing during those end-of-the-world adventures? It’s kind of like checking up on the rest of Sunnydale High School while Buffy and her crew were off stopping the hell-mouth from opening. They are just trying to pass math and not get eaten by a vampire. It focuses on the average, rather boring kids on the sidelines. These are the kids not in the spotlight but having to deal with the consequences of the big throw-down between the heroes and whatever evil that they are fighting this time. The problem with this is you end up with a story that is average and rather boring.
It is a clever and fascinating concept but the execution falls flat for me. For one thing, even if they are the average kids that the big, epic story is not happening to, there should still be a story. There is no plot in this. Just a meandering slice-of-life narrative that is pretty bland. Don’t get me wrong; I feel for the characters. The only saving grace of The Rest of Us Just Live Here is its characters. It’s painful to read about Mike’s OCD and hate for himself. That takes skill to write and I found myself most invested in the emotions of the characters. The cast is a diverse set of characters and they are the most interesting thing about this book. Too bad nothing interesting is done with them. I guess that may be the point; The Rest of Us Just Live Here is about the uninteresting lives that ordinary people live, as messed up as they are. But it doesn’t make for a very entertaining book.
I’m probably not the right person for a book like this. I like my books a bit more thrilling. Contemporary novels aren’t really my favorite but I was hoping for something special from this concept. I would have been happier with the clichéd and incredible campy book we see in the blurbs at the beginning of each chapter. The chapter pages was where Ness gave us an update on where the epic showdown between good and evil was progressing so we’d know where the events of our ordinary joes ran parallel. Like narrowly missing the gym being blown up during prom and then not so narrowly missing the whole high school being blown up during graduation. Epic showdowns between good and evil are very hard on schools.
My point is, that you have to enjoy character driven stories to enjoy The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. I don’t. These characters are some of the best I’ve ever seen written. They are having a tough time with life, evil trying to take over the world notwithstanding. They are real and true and evoke strong emotional responses in the reader with their problems and anxieties. It hurt to read Mike. It hurt to read Mel. It called to my own anxieties and messed-up-ness. I applaud Ness on his characters. It was the plot that was lacking and made for an overall unexciting novel.
I often feel a little silly writing the first paragraph of my reviews. I generally like most books I read and it has to be truly dreadful to get a bad mark from me. There are little things in a book that might put a reader off but I sometimes feel as if I’m being childish pointing them out. White Cat by Holly Black was another book I first saw on another book blog and they gave it only a middling grade. Okay but not great, if you know what I mean. I put it on my TBR pile because it had an interesting blurb, despite the so-so review. I liked it a tad more than the first reviewer appeared to but I wasn’t blown away. White Cat counts for my 1st in a series challenge and my 2012 book total.
Cassel comes from a family of curse workers, people with the skill to use magic through touch. Curse workers cause the population of this world to wear gloves to prevent themselves from being “worked”, or having a curse put on them. However, curse working is illegal and most people who have the ability are criminals. Cassel is the single non-curse worker in his whole family, making him the proverbial black sheep. He makes up for it by running petty cons and being a bookie at his boarding school. Oh, and three years ago he killed his best friend in cold blood. Didn’t he? If only Cassel could remember…
There is an odd bit of world building in this story that I thought was rather jerky. Because there are curse workers, everybody wears gloves to avoid being touched whether or not they themselves have the ability. The rest of the world looks just like ours. I can’t figure out if the little difference is genius or what makes it so unsettling. It’s as if our world is just slightly tilted wrong and it makes the reader feel very uneasy. I don’t know if I should applaud Holly Black or squirm in discomfort. Like the book I reviewed before this, Heist Society by Ally Carter, White Cat is all about family. But where the other book is about how family should stick together, this is all about how family can screw you over in the worst ways. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. With popcorn!
I was all proud of myself for figuring out the secret on page 144 but then the author did the big reveal about three chapters later and burst my bubble. (It’s a little game of mine to see how quickly I can figure out the plot twist and whether or not I’m right by the end. I pretty much fail at it.) There are enough clues sprinkled throughout the book for it to be obvious and if you take into account that all of Cassel’s family are jerks, then you will figure the secret out way quicker than I did. Just assume that everything Cassel’s brothers do is to fuck him over and you are good to go.
White Cat has a male main character, written in third person. As a reader of young adult books, having a male main character sets this book apart. It’s almost always a young teenage girl in fantasy books these days and having a boy in White Cat is a breath of fresh air. My favorite book of 2011, Witchlanders by Lena Coakley, also had a male main character and I’m always excited to find the same in other books. While not as perfect as Witchlanders, White Cat by Holly Black is very nicely written. Cassel is confused and a tad helpless in his situation, just doing the best he can. Lila is, well, a bit of a brat and I rather prefer her as a cat. Cassel’s friends, Sam and Daneca, are awesome. I think every good story has to come with a set of awesome friends. I often like them more than I like most main characters.
I seem to be developing a crush on books about crime families. This is the second book I’ve read this last week with a family of crooks! White Cat by Holly Black ended up being a good book; not fantastic but worth the read. Black was involved in The Spiderwick Chronicles, which I adore, but this book lacked that spark I was hoping to find again from her. I don’t have any major complaints about the book but it didn’t wow me either. There are two sequels, which I do plan to read.