The Rest Of Us Just Live Here



By Patrick Ness

Walker Books/Paperback/343 pages/$19.90/Books Kinokuniya/3/5

American indie pop band Echosmith sing in their 2013 hit: "I wish that I could be like the cool kids, 'cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in."

That, however, would pretty much be a death wish had they been characters in the ninth and latest novel by critically acclaimed young-adult fiction author Patrick Ness - The Rest Of Us Just Live Here.

The novel, set in an indeterminate future where Twitter is obsolete and "cool kids" or hipsters are referred to as "indie kids", is an ode to the ordinary people in the background as well as outcasts.

This satire on youth and popular culture requires a huge suspension of disbelief.

The indie kids are the ones engaged in a ferocious battle for survival against a supernatural force known as the Immortals, who are seeking them out for use as vessels to take over the world.

The credulity- stretching premise aside, the book is a breath of fresh air after a spate of apocalyptic fiction on bookshelves, movie theatres and television screens.

But they are not the focus of this story.

Instead, Ness centres on Mikey and his clique, a bunch of uncool high school students just weeks away from graduation. All they want to do is graduate before someone blows up the school again.

While the indie kids are mired in life-and-death battles - documented in brief paragraphs that open every chapter - Mikey and his gang deal with inner demons of their own.

These run the gamut from eating and obsessive-compulsive disorders to parental neglect, jealousy, unrequited love and being supplanted in a friendship.

Mikey's insecurities sometimes grate on the reader - though, admittedly, some are rather relatable.

But there are more interesting characters, such as Mikey's best friend Jared, who is a descendant of God and is worshipped by cats and mountain lions. He has healing powers, but these, apparently, are still not enough to make him part of the in-crowd.

There is also the enigmatic transfer student Nathan, who seems to hide secrets.

Mikey and his gang encounter zombie deer and possessed policemen amid a rash of deaths of their indie schoolmates - but those are still the least of their worries.

The credulity-stretching premise aside, the book is a breath of fresh air after a spate of apocalyptic fiction on bookshelves, movie theatres and television screens.

Ness succeeds in being bold, irreverent and whimsical in this book.

If you like this, read: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (2015 reprint, Walker Books, $18.90, Books Kinokuniya), a harrowing tale about a 13-year-old boy whose mother has terminal cancer and who is repeatedly visited at seven minutes after midnight by a monster who tells stories. The movie version of this awardwinning book is set for release next year and stars Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver and Felicity Jones.

Walter Sim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 01, 2015, with the headline '(No headline) - NOV01G'. Print Edition | Subscribe