“The Rest Of Us Just Live Here” by Patrick Ness

For a book blogger, I’m pretty late to the Patrick Ness party. I haven’t read many of his books — I read A Monster Calls a little while ago, after hearing a lot about it, but beyond that nothing. I saw the blurb for The Rest Of Us Just Live Here and wanted to read it, but I’ve been waiting for it to come out in paperback so that I could afford to buy it and had room for it. Then I found it in the library and decided to skip the wait and read it now.

You’re probably aware of its premise, at least peripherally, but for those who aren’t, this book focuses on the characters who aren’t the chosen ones or destined to save the world. While other high schoolers are dealing with vampires, aliens, immortal beings, or other denizens of YA novels everywhere, they’re just trying to get through school without it being blown up before they reach graduation. The ‘indie kids’ are the protagonists, and they’re the background characters trying not to get killed.

I found this an intriguing concept, although it took me a little while to get into the book because of the way it’s set up. For Mikey and the other non indie kids, these occurrences are normal if peripheral to their life, so they don’t bother explaining them; in the early chapters of the book there’s also not a lot happening for them precisely because they’re not the ones involved in all the immortal drama, so it can take a little while to get involved.

Once I did, though, I was so invested in this book. It ended up making me cry, although that might have been more to do with the fact I cried at absolutely everything that day than that it was particularly worthy of my tears. The message it sends is that everybody has something — everyone’s the protagonist of their own story. We might be battling OCD instead of demons, or exams instead of the apocalypse, but we all have our own story to be a part of it and just because we don’t seem like the conventional hero that doesn’t mean we aren’t one.

Also sometimes your best friend is the gay god of cats and you just have to go with that.

Mikey, the narrator, has OCD and anxiety that manifests in a way I could totally relate to. I don’t have OCD, although my anxiety sometimes shows itself in compulsive behaviours and I’ve got a self-destructively obsessive personality. However, I could understand his thought patterns, his fears and self doubt and worry that everyone secretly hated him. Definitely me.

There’s one chapter about two thirds of the way through where he goes to therapy to discuss these feelings and thoughts, and that’s when I started sobbing, because it was like seeing my brain written down in front of me. I felt like it had got inside my head. Fragile as I was that day, largely because of anxiety and thoughts like this, it cut very close to home in a good way.

That’s the thing about this book. It may exist in a world where kids are fighting immortals in the background, but it’s about the real and everyday battles we’re all fighting, and as a result, it was emotional.

What with this and Beautiful Broken Things, I’m beginning to think I can’t cope with anything that seems a bit too real, especially on the subject of mental illness. I love it, because the characters seem like three-dimensional human beings who could just walk off the page at any moment, but I also find it tricky to read without getting way too emotional about everything.

It’s occurred to me that I might have issues separating fiction from reality, and so when the two are alike, I treat them (emotionally) as though they’re the same thing. Possibly I am a little bit crazier than I thought, and since I’m currently on long-term sick leave from university because of my mental health, that’s saying something.

Anyway, I thought this book had a really powerful message about fighting your inner battles and the power of friendship and how to beat anxiety and just all of those things, but I also don’t feel it does it in a way that’s very easy to articulate in a review. So, I think you should read it, and then tell me what you think.

I love Jared a lot though. I can’t resist a gay god of cats. I just can’t. He was so funny, and he has powers over cats, and I just…

Okay. That was a sidenote. I should really eat some breakfast.

Rating: ****

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