Mike is not one of the indie kids. He and his friends never interacted with the vampires a few years back, or the ghosts a few years before that. They just go to high school, work at local restaurants, and deal with their parents. The indie kids wear black clothes, engage in a lot of angst and despair, and listen to jazz while reading poetry. Unfortunately, they also die a lot.
Sure, Mikey and his family have their share of problems. Mike has OCD to the point that he washes his hands until they crack and bleed. His older sister, Mel, is recovering (maybe) from anorexia, and their father is an alcoholic. Meredith, the youngest, is a genius and is the best at dealing with their politically-driven mother. Mike’s closest friend, Jared, is a great guy with the added bonus of being able to heal people a little bit, probably as a side effect of being one-quarter god. God of the Cats, that’s Jared. He has a soothing presence, but there is the issue of all the cats that follow him around to worship him. The new kid, Nathan, is impossibly handsome and might be an indie kid, or it could just be that Mikey hates him because Henna is smitten with Nathan, and Mike is in love with Henna. Maybe.
Patrick Ness never does anything the same way anyone else does, and furthermore, he never does anything the way he has done it before. In this new genre-bashing novel, he begins each chapter with a stylized, new age, poetic fantasy paragraph, such as this:
CHAPTER THE SECOND, in which indie-kid Satchel writes a poem, and her mom and dad give her loving space to just feel what she needs to; then an indie kid called Dylan arrives at her house, terrified, to say a mysterious glowing girl has informed him of the death of indie kid Finn; Satchel and Dylan comfort each other, platonically. (p. 11)
Following these chapter headings, we continue the story of Mike and his family and friends in which exactly none of the things above happen. Is this just the author’s little joke? Oh, no. Is he just making fun of YA literature? Well, yes. Ness manages to tell one or two narratives that are serious and believable, with tongue tucked firmly in cheek and one bizarre plot twist after another. It’s a YA problem novel with fantasy and loads of sarcasm laced with empathy. It’s as if John Green and Maggie Stiefvater each wrote opposite parts of the novel, making fun of each other as they went. (Which I’m sure they would never do, of course, because they have the utmost respect for one another’s brilliant work and for one another as fine human beings.)
So fun, so well done. A Printz winner? Maybe.
Highly recommended for older teens and adults who read enough YA to get the inside jokes. One not-at-all-graphic sex scene and a bit of foul language.
Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book (which means I bought 17 of them). Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.