Sunday, May 15, 2016

Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here

YA has enough Chosen Ones, Saviors, One-True-Whatevers, and more. Enough with the sixteen-year-olds who are trying to unite the realms, free the oppressed, and defeat the Big Bads... what about the ones who just want to graduate high school without experiencing a vampire invasion? 

That is the inspiration behind The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness, which follows the lives of Mikey - an anxiety-ridden, emotionally-tortured eighteen-year-old - and his friends through a rough and tumble Senior Spring, complete with zombie deer, deadly explosions at boy band concerts, and, of course, trying to get a couple good AP grades along the way.

As soon as I heard the premise, I was hooked, especially as someone who related far more to the Xanders of the world than the Buffys. It's not easy always living between pages where protagonists are all not-so-relatable redheads with superfluous superpowers, or the sons and daughters of better-behaved demigods than their literature would suggest, or kids who can get away with wiping out half a city while still maintaining the moral grounds of "We did the right thing." Not everyone has superpowers, not everyone knows what the "right thing" really is, and not everyone has the power to chase Fate beyond taking it one day at a time... especially in such a fraught environment as senior year high school.

So, with all those great expectations in mind, I set out to read, and quickly found that the novel was not what I expected. If anything, there was even more teenage angst and drama than you'd find in Dystopian or Fantasy YA, displaced into a Contemporary setting, and it was almost as if it was trying desperately to be relatable by giving characters unnecessary quirks or backgrounds that didn't quite fit the bill.

The relations between our gym class strike-outs with the "indie kids" - those who are destined to save the school, kiss the girl, whatever - were hilarious, but it still would have been better if our protagonists were more relatable. Despite the fact that we were constantly reminded they were the "normal" ones, they were still sto distant from what normal high schoolers are that the culture divide wasn't disparate enough.

The plot itself was fairly conventional, and followed where you expected it would, which would contribute to the idea of Mikey and his gang being the "normal" ones. However, there was also a lot of unnecessary drama thrown in at the end for no reason, in an attempt to make the book end with a (literal) bang. To be honest, the most surprising thing I enjoyed about this novel, was looking for the source of the glowing on my bedside table in the middle of the night, and finding out that it was the characters on the cover (I'm a sucker for good interactive cover marketing).

I would still probably recommend the book for its understated depiction of the normalcies of therapy and medication. These kids aren't exactly totally relatable, but the stressors and coping mechanisms they interact with are the same as those that kids do today, and in that way, they're accurate reflections of a teenage mindscape.

Final Verdict: While I didn't really enjoy the book itself, it did make me think, and it was a good break from the unshakably brave heroes and stubbornly idealistic heroines of other parts of today's YA atmosphere. And, like I said, the cover was pretty darn cool.

Have you read The Rest of Us Just Live Here? Do you think we need more relatable heroes in YA? Let me know, in the comments below! 

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