What if you aren’t the Chosen One?
The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death? What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again. Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life. Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.
When a book advertises itself as being about the ordinary kids who are pushed to the background in favour of the Chosen Ones, it probably shouldn’t be all that surprising when the tale that it tells is just that… ordinary. I was blown away by Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy but haven’t really loved anything he’s written since, and I was hoping that The Rest of Us Just Live Here would change that. Unfortunately, I was more in love with the idea of this novel than the actual execution.
If you’re looking for a diverse read, then this book is for you. In our main cast of characters, there are characters with mental health issues, gay characters, characters of colour… it literally ticks off every box. Maybe that’s what troubled me about it: in a book designed to make teenagers think about the tropes in the books they read, this book somehow manages to feel formulaic (or maybe that’s the point and I’m not a sophisticated reader to appreciate it).
It’s not that the book isn’t technically well-written: Ness knows his craft well. Each chapter opens with a little synopsis of what the Chosen Ones – here known as the indie kids – are up to. It’s a humorous take on the Chosen One genre that has emerged out of YA lit. Unfortunately, these little synopses are what stands out the most. Despite the main cast of characters having relatable issues in their everyday lives – absent, neglectful or alcoholic parents, mental health issues (eating disorders and OCD), and unrequited love – I was unable to really connect with them. It felt like the book only scratched the surface of its potential and ultimately I wanted more from it, character-wise and plot-wise.
I have no doubt that my opinion is in the minority and this book will be wildly popular. Regardless, Ness is a gifted author who writes smart fiction, and I will continue to check out his work.
Please note: this review originally appeared on my blog, What Kim Read Next. It has been reformatted and edited.