Warning: If you have not read “The Rest Of Us Just Live Here” by Patrick Ness, do not read this review if you don’t want spoilers!
I’m back with another book review, and this time it’s “The Rest Of Us Just Live Here” by Patrick Ness! I’ve reviewed books of his before, namely “A Monster Calls” and “The Crane Wife,” and I couldn’t help but wonder how this one would go, given that the genre of this one is different than the other two. Here’s a summary of what it’s about:
“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…”
The character development in this book was actually quite good regarding the main characters, which are Mikey, who at first seems like the normal everyday guy and then soon revealed that he has more hidden depths—namely, struggling with his OCD and anxiety, as well as a whole ton of other things. There will be more on that in a later paragraph. Other main characters are Mel, Mikey’s older sister who is noted to have suffered from anorexia and despite having recovered, occasionally has relapses (especially later in the book), and Henna, Mikey’s love interest who tends to go a little philosophical about love in her dialogue (and it’s actually made clear that she’s a person of colour, unlike a lot of other YA books that I’ve read that don’t always make it clear enough if the characters are such).
Mikey definitely had the most development, which made sense given that he’s the main protagonist out of all the main characters. He’s not the ‘Chosen One’ in this RPG-version of USA in this book, he’s just an everyday guy. But even everyday guys have their hidden depths. Mikey’s struggles with his OCD (this is more minor and subtle in my opinion), his worsening anxiety (this is a much more major mental health issue he has in this book), as well as friends leaving him out of the loop of events he should have known much earlier (unfortunately Henna falls among this bunch of friends leaving him out of the loop, which sucks) and his political, campaigning mother being both emotionally abusive and horribly neglectful (more on this in a later paragraph), make him feel a bit relatable. I especially found Mikey’s struggles with anxiety and his worries of being left out of the loop so much being incredibly relatable, especially in the latter half of the book, and I really enjoyed reading that.
Touching on the mental health issues a bit, especially regarding Mikey’s anxiety, it was refreshing to read that Mikey himself was deeply aware of his anxiety, and when he told his family (such as his mother and his sister more particularly) that he needed to get help, they were supportive of that rather than denying that he needed help. Even if Mikey was generally the person who did things such as going to the doctor by himself, getting his own meds, etc., it’s clear that he later recognizes in the book that he is not alone in this struggle, and that everyone has their own struggles (like Mel with anorexia, for example), but that doesn’t mean that anyone has to suffer and struggle alone, despite how things may seem. I thought that was an honestly nice message, and it wasn’t overdone like it was in “The Crane Wife,” either.
Unfortunately, there are a few things that do bring this book down. Mikey and Mel’s mother, a politician who gets into campaigning to be a congresswoman, ends up being horrifically neglectful and emotionally abusive majority of the time. She tries to guilt-trip them into letting her go to a local concert all because it would make her look good, and then literally threatens to not let anyone go to the concert when they politely decline her request, and she also gives no worries at all about Mikey being in a horrible accident that gives him a facial scar for the rest of the book, instead blabbering about how proud she is that she’s going into her campaign. Mikey and Mel both call her out for this, but unfortunately she doesn’t get the point, which really annoys me.
Another thing that brought down this book was the worldbuilding. I felt that it was a bit sparse, and I had no idea that it took place in the USA, just RPG-ified, until about a quarter-way through the book. I think there could have been more work to make that clear.
Overall, I’m rating this book 3.5 out of 5 stars!