Patrick Ness has won the Carnegie medal twice before: for Monsters of Men in 2011 and A Monster Calls the following year. If The Rest of Us Just Live Here scoops the prize this year, Patrick will become the first ever writer to win three times.
I was lucky enough to be able to interview Patrick at Bolton Central Library when he was promoting this book back in November. He was absolutely brilliant and what shone through was the total respect he has for his readers. He answered each question fully and candidly and explained that with this book he wanted to focus not on the ‘chosen one’ who does something spectacular to save the world around them but to focus on the average kid who just wants to make it through the days. This is reflected in the book’s intriguing blurb:
What if you weren’t the chosen one? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever this new thing is with the blue lights and the death? What if you were like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.
This is a very clever book that plays around with many of the traditional tropes of fantasy YA. Each chapter begins with a snippet of the story of the chosen ones – the indie kids with names like Satchel and Finn, who are disappearing all over the place – and then the bulk of the chapter is devoted to the story of Mikey and his friends, the relationships between them and the issues they face. It’s a format that took me a couple of chapters to get used to but is really effective in setting up a typical YA fantasy scenario and then deconstructing it.
There is humour in this book but also real subtlety and emotion too. There is a diverse range of characters and, although each of them is dealing with a number of issues of their own but their issues are elements of what makes the characters who they are, not the sum total of their story. It is the relationships and connections between them that are the main focus of the story. The relationships between Mikey and his sisters are particularly beautifully portrayed, the love and protectiveness they feel for each other leaps off the page.
The whole concept of this book is not something I have ever come across before and that is the beauty of Patrick Ness’s writing. Each of his books is original and surprising and takes you somewhere you’ve never been before.