Book of the Week: The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness is the first children’s author I fell in love with as an adult–kids books being a relatively recent development in my professional reading life.

Five years ago Candlewick did a great job of promoting the last book in Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy. And though I was late to the game, when I got a promo copy I started flipping through it. I don’t think I read a whole chapter before I put it down and went out to buy the first two books in the trilogy so that I could read them all in order. It was a definitely “wow” experience. From there I followed him to the exquisitely sad and redemptive A Monster Calls and later his adult novel, The Crane Wife. John Green says Ness is “an insanely beautiful writer.” Agreed. I’ll follow this guy anywhere.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here sees Ness return to the teen novel. It’s a witty commentary on the “super kids” genre that is by turns hilarious and poignant. Ness’ own superpower is creating character–his empathetic ability to breathe life into the “average” kids at the heart of the story enlivens and animates the message about doing your part and appreciating your own place in the world.

[Ness himself seems to have taken that message to heart. Read here to learn how he used Twitter and the help of authors like John Green and Rainbow Rowell to mobilize financial support for refugees caught up European crisis. To date, his efforts have resulted in more than a million dollars in donations to Save the Children. You can contribute here.]

Booksellers have really embraced The Rest of Us Just Live Here and it’s Autumn 2015 Indie Next Pick.

Mikey simply wants to graduate, enjoy his friendships, and maybe, just maybe, kiss his longtime crush. All that’s easier said than done, however, thanks to his struggles with anxiety, his dreadful parents, and the latest group of indie kids discovering their ‘capital-D Destinies.’ By beginning each chapter with an arch summary of the indie kids’ adventures before returning to Mikey’s wry first-person narration, Ness offers a hilarious—and perceptive—commentary on the chosen-one stories that are currently so popular in teen fiction. The diverse cast of characters is multidimensional and memorable, and the depiction of teen sexuality is refreshingly matter-of-fact. Magical pillars of light and zombie deer may occasionally drive the action here, but ultimately this novel celebrates the everyday heroism of teens doing the hard work of growing up. Fresh, funny, and full of heart: not to be missed.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Ness has crafted a polished, lifelike world where the mundane moments are just as captivating as the extraordinary. Mikey and his friends are flawed, funny, and deeply human, yet the challenges they face–mental illness, dirty political campaigns, jealousies, etc.–are just as meaningful as the apocalypse prevention the indie kids get up to. Ness’ deadpan sci-fi novel pokes fun at far-fetched futuristic fantasies while emphasizing the important victories of merely living. This memorable, moving, and often hilarious read is sure to be a hit.”
Booklist (starred review)

“Twice winner of the Carnegie Medal, along with every other major prize in children’s fiction, [Ness] is always someone to look out for. His latest novel, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, does not disappoint; bold and well written, it provides plenty to think about, even though all the most urgent action is deliberately placed out of sight and off the page. Fantasy adventure stories tend to concentrate on how super-villains are finally brought down, usually well against the odds and by doughty heroes and heroines. But there are few accounts about what is also going on at the same time among their supporting casts of characters. Ness sets out to rectify this.”
The Independent

 “Mikey’s coming-of-age story is really about fighting internal demons. He has OCD, his sister Mel has anorexia and there’s some agonising here and there about sexuality….The touching thing about the book is how kind they all are. Mikey and his sisters look after each other with a kind of desperate solicitude, and the friends tiptoe around each others’ sensitivities, always ready with words of comfort or wise advice. And, in inviting readers to appreciate his literary joke, Ness is paying them a compliment, too.”
The Telegraph

Allow me to preface this blurb with a fact. I usually avoid Young Adult books as a general rule (It isn’t they aren’t well written, just not my cup of tea). Ness had already forced a reevaluation of my YA heuristics with A Monster Calls, but this story destroyed them in totality…The story of the people that oft inhabit these pseudo-fantasy universes is the real meat (and is much more interesting than the story we’ve all heard rehashed into oblivion). Original (but truly so), relatable (in a genuine sense), and sometimes funny (in a dark sense) The Rest of Us Just Live Here presses buttons I didn’t even know I had.”
— Patrick Burchett, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, OH

“The writing is crisp, clever, witty, moving, profound and has that genuine dialog that makes you feel like a delighted observer. It’s about this group of kids who are mostly normal. Normal in their fears about prom, pressures from family, life after high school and identity. But with a slight twist. It’s the juxtaposition of normal and amazing so deftly handled by Ness that makes you sit up and pay attention.”
— Liesl Freudenstein, Boulder Book Store, Boulder, CO

The Rest of Us Just Live Here (9780062403162) by Patrick Ness. $17.99 hardcover. 10/6/15 on sale.

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