I used to really hate the Richard and Judy book club. Every day, after Richard and Judy talked about in television, a thousand people would come into the library and ask for a copy of the book. The book that we only had about five copies of and had already flown off the shelves by 9.03. It was the bane of my life and God I hated those books.
For some reason, that sort of feeling for me started to smudge out of the Richard and Judy space and onto the other popular books. For a long time I didn’t read Patrick Ness. Couldn’t.
I knew that I should, that these books were wildly popular and beautiful things, that the readers I spoke to couldn’t stop themselves from devouring the rest of his work, but I couldn’t – quite – manage it. I couldn’t quite get past that moment – same as with the Richard and Judy books – that we’d inevitably not have as many of them in stock as we should, as I wanted to give the reader, and then when the customer realised we didn’t have the books, we’d have a fun discussion about the deficiencies of everything, myself included. Not always, but often enough to make it into the urban folklore of that particular library. (“It’s Richard and Judy Day!” “I’ll hide in the back!” “No, I will!”)
Eventually, reader I read Ness and oh it was good. His writing is vivid and heartfelt and literary and true.
The Rest Of Us is no exception to that rule.
It tells the story of those who are on the sidelines whilst in the background, somebody else tries to save the world. The Zeppo‘s, if you will. But really, to refer to this book in such a context is to sort of disregard the quiet depth of it. Ness has written a book about the struggles of the real world; the struggles that living itself brings, and the power and grace and pain of the friends and families that see us through it.
The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a relatively quiet book, in comparison to the high drama going on in the background of it. Each chapter opens with a brief precis of the ‘other’ story occuring in the world: world ending, death, yadda yadda, whilst in the ‘main’ chapters, we stay with Mikey and his friends. They just want to survive through to graduation. They just want to live.
I like Ness. I like him a lot. I like writing like this that isn’t afraid of burnishing the perceived truth of life and uncovering what’s underneath that. I like his sympathy, I like the heart of this book; the love of people and the hope that that love brings. I think that’s enough to live for, and I suspect that maybe that’s the point of it all.