Not everyone has to be the Chosen One. Not everyone has to be the guy who saves the world. Most people have to just live their lives the best they can, doing the things that are great for them, having great friends, trying to make their lives better, loving people properly. All the while knowing that the world makes no sense but trying to find a way to be happy anyway. (The Rest of Us Just Live Here, p. 216)
It’s only fitting that I start 2018 with a review of a book that I began in 2017 and finished in 2018 (and that I got courtesy of the Cannonball Read Book Exchange – – Thanks Caitlin!!). I had heard good things about this novel by Patrick Ness and I was not disappointed.
I don’t know what it says about me but I often wonder about (and identify with) the side characters in movies and novels—Bonnie Hunt in Jerry Maguire, Barb in Stranger Things, or the servants in the background of any British period drama. Combine this with the general powerlessness I feel these days about everything from global climate change to income inequality to simply all my DACA students being deported and I have started to feel like I’m not the hero of this particular disaster movie but rather a bit part, maybe even a non-speaking role, College Teacher #3.
All this is to say that Patrick Ness’s novel, which focuses on a group of kids who are not the Chosen Ones, who are not the heroes in the epic struggle between Good and Evil, but who nonetheless struggle and love and live, hit some sort of existential sweet spot for me. Mikey and his sister, Mel, along with their friends, Henna and Jared, live in an unnamed town in Washington state, where mysterious things often happen and “indie kids” with names like Finn and Dylan and Satchel fight to save the world (from vampires, zombies, mysterious glowing lights, whatever). They are the cool kids but they often turn up dead. Mikey knows that he and his friends are on the edge of this bigger story, but he doesn’t really care. All he wants to do is to go to prom with Henna, graduate from high school, move away to college and maybe get a handle on his recently exacerbated OCD.
The epic it-might-be-the-end-of-the-world battle is there in the background and it occasionally leaps in front of the plot (both literally and figuratively). However, the focus is squarely on Mikey and his friends and their struggles with endings and beginnings and with issues of identity, sexuality, mental health, and family. All perfectly normal except for the fact that Jared is the son of a god and is worshipped by all things feline.
If you’ve gotten a little weary of dystopian fiction or stories where the end of world is coming, this novel might be just what you need—a funny but also touching story of teens simply trying to make it to adulthood.