Tag Archives: Patrick Ness

The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness

Rest of Us Just Live HereMike 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.

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More Than This, by Patrick Ness

ImageIt is difficult to review a novel in which the main character dies in the preface without giving it all away. I can tell you, though, that for quite a long time you’ll be thinking “?” and “??,” followed by “Oh! But ?,” until the end, when you’ll be thinking, “Turn the pages faster!!”

Seth does truly drown in the very beginning of the novel, and I can assure you that he does not move toward the gentle light where he sees all of his beloved departed waiting for him. Nor is the book one big flashback. The reader works to discover the truth along with Seth in this sci-fi thriller, and events unfold ever more quickly, running toward a breathless conclusion. Along the way, Seth grapples with the nature of reality, wondering if his present circumstances justify the feeling he has always had, that there must be more than this. If this is the “more,” is it what he expected? Or perhaps the “more” was always in front of him before, but he didn’t see it.

I have had several workshops with one of our human resources counselor types, and she often mentioned that humans tend to “self-medicate” in order to cope with life, whether they actually use drugs or alcohol, or whether it’s food, shopping, Facebook, online games, or any number of activities. The alternative, of course, is to face your pain head-on and deal with it. If you have real pain in your life, do you really want to be fully conscious? There’s a line in a Switchfoot song that goes, “I’m awake in the infinite cold….” Most of us would do anything to avoid being awake in the infinite cold. Seth has to decide if he wants to wake up.

Patrick Ness was born in the United States, but now lives in England. He has won the Carnegie Medal and other prizes in the past, and his writing is always top-notch. I have not read the buzz in Printz Award-watch circles yet, but I do have one misgiving concerning this novel. At one point in the book, I thought, “Oh, I’ve seen this movie.” At another point, it was a different movie. Will More Than This be considered derivative? That will be the question, in my opinion.

For those who are just looking for a great read, this is a fun, wild ride. There is sexuality and some profanity, so be forewarned. Recommended for teen and adult sci-fi fans who like to think.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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