I’ve been a fan of Patrick Ness since listening to a wonderful audio version of The Knife of Never Letting Go, long before the Chaos Walking trilogy started on the big screen. There is a quiet, and sometimes not so quiet, humour to Ness which is becoming addictive. I respect so many authors, but as a writer, Ness is now at the top of my list of writers who make me say, “Damn, I wish I wrote that!” So, I’m finally working my way through his back catalog and though I’m 6 years late, I am so excited to have lost myself in The Rest of Us Just Live here.
I don’t do summaries in reviews. But in brief, The Rest of Us is a bittersweet look at the entry into adulthood of a unique group of teens, who consider themselves at best average and at worst, broken. Their struggles are set in juxtaposition to “the indies”–– those cool, good-looking kids who are always off battling the forces of darkness. The homage and send-up of the New Moon series are so delightful, it continues to make me smile even now, days later.
The characters are well drawn, individual and unexpected. Mikey, the lead, is complicated and a little lost in the complexities of OCD. It was wonderful to feel both love for him and frustration in his narcissism… but that just means I felt what his friends do. Right in there with him.
Really, I am only say just go and read it so that we can talk!
Full disclosure, I haven’t fished the Rick Yancey trilogy and I’ve ‘read’ the first two on audio book. This brings me to my first comment… we want our kids to read, we love it when they forget their chores (and even their manners) because their faces are planted in books. Oh, wait, is that just me? Never the less, I feel a promo for audio books coming on… I’ve always been a big fan and now that I am writing middle grade fantasy it feels like there is never enough time to read and research. In comes audio. I cook, I run, I walk the dog… probably upwards of three hours a day. Much of this time can be filled with audio books. I tend to listen to books that I don’t feel I need require too much attention. Often, I raid the public library’s audio section to borrow books I might not otherwise read. This is a digression for new writers, but it is always good to dabble in other genres and pick up ideas on plot development, dialogue, world building etc… I’ve traversed many a long mile with the pup in tow listening to Grisham, Patterson and Dickens… yup, eclectic! And, it’s all guilt-free because it’s from the library.
OK, sorry, back to Yancey. I have no interest in writing book reviews for MG/YA books. Goodreads and Common Sense Media are great places to go if you want ideas for your kids or to get an idea what they are reading. Here’s where I share what I thought about whilst reading these books. Like so many wonderful dystopian stories, I hear them differently pre and post Covid and I wonder if kids’ appetites for world destruction will ebb in the coming months/years. In the 5th Wave a plague is the second devastation to blight the planet. Decidedly more fraught now. Yancey, however, focuses on the question of what it is to be human in a way that is satisfying. For many young readers, exploring relationship is the central interest, the devastation of humanity a side-line. My daughter and I enjoyed a robust debate on whether we were on team Evan or team Ben Parish. I won’t digress into a discourse on whether books like the 5th Wave could do without the romantic tension or whether Cassie may have too much reliance on the boys in her life. Cassie is badass, not cut from the Catniss mould, but somehow more real in her vulnerability.
What I really want to explain is that I adore MG and YA stories. Are there holes in this story? Yup. Why trick and train a bunch of kids to kill humans when you already have flawless alien killing machines embedded in humans? If the alien entity is just a consciousness that can occupy a human hull, why bother killing humans at all, why not just occupy them? (Especially if they are super cute like Evan! Please don’t point out he could be my kid, I know!!) But I love the playfulness, the ability to create worlds without having to explain all the science and reason behind them. I’m looking forward to seeing how this series goes.