23 January 2016

Imminent Future: A Review of The Rest of Us Just Live Here, Patrick Ness

This is the month of preoccupied reading; progressing from one great book to another, allowing little time to digest the last as I immerse myself in the next. If the world was filled with this type of problem there would be little to grieve. Unfortunately, I am finding my enthusiasm obstructing any attempt to review through this blog. Four books stand firm in my brain, flashing to be heard through this medium but I have a book to finish and the cycle perpetuates.

And yet, as I am one hour from trekking off to the local natural history museum for a day of dinosaur bones, rock collections and bat dioramas with my son, I am going to do the impossible and post. Writing, as Twitter loves to highlight, is an arduous task, a procrastinator's nightmare, for me though it is a struggle with timing. Waiting for the planets to align, my posts lack consistency because of my creative process. I need to feel it and if that is lacking then little writing will ensue. In all likelihood, I am in need of a regimental writing course, something to shake the creative out but with a book sitting next to me there is enough of a justified distraction. That book, The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, has undergone the most dramatic about-face regarding my review.

Patrick Ness is a renowned children's author with two Carnegie medals, and a legion of much deserved praise; or so I can gather from my brief dalliance on the internet. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a the typical coming-of-age story, narrated by Mike, a high-schooler documenting his last few weeks with his friends before graduation launches them into their imminent futures. 

With Judy Blume holding fast to the crown of demystifying growing-up, Ness's attempt to step into the realm is lacklustre. And yet, I respectfully admit it took me to the very last page to arrive at this sad conclusion. Mike has OCD, his sister battles anorexia, her best-friend is on the brink of moving to a war-torn country with her missionary parents and his best-friend is the grandson of the god of cats. The gods of cats, and it is here that this very ordinary story of teen development takes a dramatic turn. Firmly entrenched in a world of monsters, vampires, gods and immortals, the suburbia life of Mike and his friends is anything but ordinary. By applying a layer of fantasy to an already popular literary theme, Ness had me convinced that he had opened a world up to normalizing mental illness. With 50 pages left, he most soundly had but suddenly the mystic slipped away and the story became a glaringly obvious retelling of prom. Even with the blue lights and the monsters and the dying kids, the denouement killed the magic.  

The brilliant discussion of mental illness veiled as a monster trope that I thought I was reading, is not.  This girl is discontent with what could have been.