This book marks my first foray into the Young Adult genre in a long time. I picked it up from the Kolkata International Book Fair 2016 (27 Jan-6 Feb) at a discounted price. If you live in and around Kolkata or happen to be there during the last week of January/First week of February and you are a book nerd, this is an event worth visiting. Several publishers of international repute put up their stalls there- Penguin, Random House, Oxford, Cambridge, Harper Collins, Amar Chitra Katha- along with stalls of several retail chains- Crossword, Starmark, Oxford Bookstore etc. You are bound to find great offers to soothe your book buying thirst without any significant damage to your bank balance. (Tip- Target the last three days for relatively better discounts!)
The Formulaic Mold of YA-
Before beginning my review, I must refer to the Young Adult genre and the problem with it. The genre generally caters to teenagers between 12-18 years of age, but the age group is just indicative. Even a middle aged person can enjoy books of this genre, as the saying goes -“You are never too old to read YA literature”. The common theme is churning out coming of age stories, usually concerning a protagonist who is the ‘chosen one’, the one who has to rise above his frailties and adverse circumstances to protect and preserve what is dear to him. This has led YA literature to become formulaic. Name any YA series that comes to your mind- Hunger Games, Divergent, Twilight, The Maze Runner- it has the same formula with plot differences. (Boring!)
The Rest Of Us Just Live Here breaks out of the formulaic mold of YA fiction. The suggestive title refers to the fact that the story is about ordinary teenagers living ordinary lives in a world where far away from them the ‘chosen ones’ try and deal with ‘end-of-the-world’ threats.
“Not everyone has to be the Chosen One. Not everyone has to be the guy who saves the world.”
― Patrick Ness,
Mikey, his sister and his group of friends are ordinary teenagers with ordinary teenage problems. Mikey just wishes to attend prom, graduate before someone blows up the high school again, enjoy the last summer he will have together with his friends, and maybe gather the courage ask his crush out before someone beats him to it. The blue lights, a zombie deer and Indie kids ending up dead- Mikey and his friends seem to be far away from it, but trouble is never far away from them. Will they make it to graduation?
This book was so interesting. It has a very unique format. In the beginning of each chapter there is a paragraph explaining how the Indie Kids are dealing with the new end-of-the-world situation. So we have a fair idea of what’s going on with the Indie Kids before we start each chapter. The story then shifts towards Mikey and his friends, then the events described at the beginning take place and Mikey cannot make much sense of it. But the reader knows. (YAYY!)
The characters are fairly interesting. Mikey and his sister both have psychological problems. His best friend is the God of Cats! His parents are both not quite supportive of him and do not approve of his friends. His mother is an ambitious politician and his dad is a disgraced car salesman. The characters get a lot of page time (except the Indie Kids that is) and a significant part is dedicated to character development. These character had me hooked for good.
The plot is quite easy to understand, it is fairly linear with no overreaching surprises in store. The uniqueness of the plot was good enough to keep me interested till the end.
“We share our craziness, our neuroses, our little bit of screwed-up-ness that comes from our family. We share it. And it feels like love.”
― Patrick Ness,
The Sci-Fi elements (the blue lights, Indie Kids) do not quite mix into the slice-of-life plot elements as well. There are things that are left unexplained which I would seriously love to know more about. There is a certain friction between them which made the overall experience a bit disappointing. Yes the book is supposed to be like that in keeping with the “anti-chosen one” theme, I just felt the two elements did not blend in that well. But that’s just my personal opinion.
There is a significant adjustment period to bear with at the beginning of the book. It is like you were in the familiar comfort of your home one moment and the next you are cast into this strange world with strange people talking about stuff you have no freaking idea about. It took me three to four chapters to finally get used to the story.
I felt the ending was quite abrupt and highly unsatisfactory. It is nothing unpredictable and nothing quite new. I’m sure once you start reading you will pretty much know where the story is headed.
This book is so unique it need to be read at least once. The interesting characters and the lure of finding out what happens next in the unprecedented plot line had me sold. But the agony of the initial ‘burning-in’ period and the abrupt ending can be a bit hard to take. Yet the uniqueness of the book is enough for me to recommend it to everyone interested in YA or anyone tired of the conventional YA tropes.
My Rating- 3/5
My Certification– BUY IT!! It deserves a place on your shelf. (The beautiful cover adds to the sheen of any bookshelf.)