And that’s the premise of The Rest of Us Just Live Here. It’s a book that, for once, doesn’t deal with the special snowflake and her love interest (who smells of vanilla and seawater, and has eyes the colour of uncut emeralds) and how she manages to save the world, despite being bookish and socially awkward. Instead, the kids in this book are the ordinary ones, the ‘other’ kids who go to Sunnydale High, the ones who aren’t Shadowhunters, who aren’t divergent, or psychic or in love with a vampire. And okay, one of them is one-quarter god, but they’re one-quarter the god of cats, so their usefulness is fairly limited.
I realise that I’m sounding a bit down on the whole special snowflake oeuvre. I don’t mean to. I like a special snowflake as much as the next hopeless romantic, but there was something deeply refreshing about a story where the kids are just dealing with normal stuff, like mental health issues and being gay and having crap parents whilst trying to ignore an impending apocalypse and letting someone else save the world.
In this book, the special snowflakes are the indie kids. You know who they are. They have unusual names and often dress in black and they always, always blow the school up in order to prevent the apocalypse. This time, the indie kids blew the school up to save the world from the Immortals, but the ordinary kids also reminisce about the time they saved the world from vampires and soul-eating ghosts.
They also reminisce about the time all the indie kids were dying beautifully of cancer, which made me snort with laughter and then clap my hand over my mouth in self-horror because cancer isn’t funny and The Fault In Our Stars is a great book. But still.
So the indie kids do their thing, they save the world and they betray each other and they die in beautiful sacrificial ways and they get embroiled in love triangles, but there’s also a really human story here too. Mikey and his pals are just trying to survive high school - literally and figuratively. In a way, you can take the indie kids as a metaphor for the way we all feel sometimes; like everyone is just a bit more special and useful and wanted than we are. What this leaves us with is a really clever mixture of speculative and contemporary fiction.
And I loved the cleverness. The plot and the writing are eyewateringly sharp and relevant and this is such a clever, funny book that I found myself constantly going, ‘Yes, yes, yes!’ and underlining passages. And then I would quickly rub out my underlinings because the copy I have is actually a library copy. But anyway, the thought was there. Patrick Ness has done a superb job of identifying all the YA tropes and sticking a pin in them, but at the same time making you really interested in what the indie kids have got going on.
I only ever give five star reviews to books that have not only entertained me, but also have, in my opinion, a lot of re-read value. The thing is, with The Rest Of Us Just Live Here, the book I want to re-read is the story of Satchel and Finn and the rest of the indie kids. Is it bad that I want to read the full story of the kids who are intended to be a cliché? Does a book warrant five stars if this is the story I want to re-read? Sod it, I think it does.