DBHS Student Publication.

Review: The Rest of us Just Live Here

October 29, 2015

Many authors choose to set their novels in worlds either entirely modeled after the real world or after some figment of their imagination, but in recent years, a new genre called “magical realism” has appeared. “The Rest of Us Just Live Here” by Patrick Ness is one striking example of the emerging genre, and is also my first experience with such a novel.

The novel starts off with a startlingly long chapter title, which describes a seemingly insane situation between “the Immortals,” an alien race, and an indie kid named Finn, but then reverts to a “normal” setting with “normal” characters for the rest of the chapter.

Set in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, we are first introduced to the main characters when they are sitting in a field, talking about homework and other such mundane topics when they spot a couple of the “indie kids,” also known as the “Chosen Ones,” who are trying to prevent the world from being overrun by supernatural creatures, running frantically into the nearby forest.

We soon learn that every single one of the main characters faces a debilitating flaw/obstacle: Mikey, the protagonist, has obsessive-compulsive disorder (the real kind, not just the irritation you get when you see a crooked painting on the wall), his love interest Henna is traveling to the war-torn Central African Republic at the end of the year with her parents, his sister Mel is recovering from an eating disorder that left her dead for exactly four minutes, and his best friend Jared is a quarter God and has to deal with other divine (supernatural) forces.

Ness does a fantastic job incorporating these various challenges into the novel, and provides a truthful, non-romanticized view of what it’s like to live with anxiety disorders and deal with family problems and social situations.

Throughout the novel, there’s an undercurrent of tension as the characters run into glowing blue-eyed police officers and dead indie kids, hence the magic contrasting the realism. One of the most interesting aspects of this novel is that while indie kids are stereotypically thought of as “outsiders” who generally do their own thing, Ness writes the book as if everything (disastrous) that happens revolves around them, while “the rest of us just live here.”

One thing that I eventually learned was that the paragraph-long chapter titles that tell the seemingly irrelevant plot line of Satchel, an indie kid, and her struggle against the Immortals comes together in the end with Mikey and his friends. Ness ties up the story beautifully—so pay attention to the chapter titles, because while they are incredibly easy to skip over and ignore, they can also give hints about the supernatural side of the story.

This novel not only marks the beginning of my magical realism obsession, but also the possible onset of an audiobook craze, as I finally gave into the “listening-not-reading” trend so that I could “read” while doing homework. While it worked reasonably well while I was doing homework, I found it irritating to listen to the novel at such a slow pace and soon found myself ditching the Audible app for my beautiful, hardcopy version of the novel.

Ness, who had previously gained notoriety for his dystopian “Chaos Walking” trilogy, was already a favorite author for many, and after reading his latest novel, I have to say that I’m kind of a tentative fan, too. His writing style, which is at once smooth and elegant and relatably colloquial, is one of the biggest factors in the easy flow of the story.

Overall, I have to say that I was definitely pleased with my first foray into the world of magical realism, and I can’t wait to delve into other such authors’ works, such as A. S. King’s notable works.

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