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Review of The Rest of Us Just Live Here

ness_restofusThe Rest of Us Just Live Here
by Patrick Ness
High School   HarperTeen   320 pp.
10/15   978-0-06-240316-2   $17.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-06-240318-6   $10.99

Ness’s latest offering is a fantasy novel — and simultaneously a fantasy-novel send-up — whose true focus is on its cast of innocent bystanders. Mikey’s town is “just like your town,” except that every once in a while impossible things (the undead, vampires, soul-eating ghosts) invade it and are driven out by the heroic “indie kids with unusual names and capital-D Destinies.” This time, the invaders are Immortals with a mission to select someone as a permanent Vessel for their Empress in preparation for taking over the world. Brief chapter openings encapsulate these details, but the rest of each chapter tells what’s happening to ordinary Mikey. He and his siblings and friends sometimes cross paths with the hero indie-kids but rarely take part in their adventures, which the main characters brush off as just another one of their crazy sagas. The novel’s tone, with its ripped-from-current-YA-fantasy indie-kid names (two Finns; a heroine named Satchel; lots of Dylans), encourages readers to view the Immortal invasion the same way. The narrative’s real weight is attached to the mostly realistic events surrounding Mikey: the “loops” that his OCD traps him in; his sister Mel’s severe eating disorder; the outside attention on the family because of his politician mom; a love quadrangle involving longtime friends and fluid sexualities. In this often-hilarious (and just as often poignant) parody of fantasy stories from Harry’s to Buffy’s, not everyone is a Chosen One, but “everyone’s got something”; everybody matters.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College.

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