Publisher: Walker Books
Release Date: August 27th 2015
Summary (from Goodreads):
What if you aren’t the Chosen One?
The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?
What if you’re 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.
Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.
Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.
I mentioned this book in my Books I Can’t Believe I Haven’t Read Yet post, and like Asking For It by Louise O’Neill I was particularly desperate to read this one. This is one of the two books from that post that my wonderful partner bought for me, so massive thanks to Nathan for my copy.
If you’ve glanced around my blog before, you may have seen Patrick Ness’ name thrown around a lot: basically, I’m a fan. I loved his Chaos Walking trilogy when I was a teen, and this year I began to read the rest of his works (which, again, Nathan bought for me for my birthday, so I now own all of Ness’ books).
When this book was announced I was super excited to read it. The premise sounded amazing, especially for a fan of YA. I love the genre, fantasy YA in particular, but it does have its tropes, and this book playfully pokes fun of them in a way I just adored.
Each chapter begins with a summary of what is happening in the world of the ‘indie kids’. You know the ones: they have stupid names, nerdy but somehow cool haircuts and they’re all the Chosen One or about to fall in love with a vampire. We only get a glimpse of the things that they’re up to, and I’ll admit a tiny part of me wanted their story in full, but that’s not what this is about.
This is a story about friendship and coming of age and insecurities, and sure, the end of the world stuff is going on in the background, but that’s just how it is. It makes me wonder about the other fantasy books I’ve read, and what it’s like for the ordinary people in those: the ones who aren’t Chosen and are just hoping to graduate and go to college without the indie kids blowing up the school.
I suppose this book could be considered a bit boring and ordinary, especially when you compare it to Ness’ other works: it’s not his usual style of weird and wonderful fantasy, more a contemporary story of friendship with just a tiny hint of weirdness that’s not really focussed on. I can see it’s not for everyone, but I really enjoyed it. He writes wonderful characters and for me, that’s what makes his books so great.
They might not be the Chosen Ones, but the characters in this book have their own stuff to deal with which is just as important. Mikey, our narrator, and his sister Mel both have their own mental health issues to deal with: Mikey’s anxiety and OCD tendencies, and Mel’s recovering anorexia. This isn’t helped by their father’s alcoholism and their mother being in the public eye as a politician (who frequently runs against, and beats their best friend’s dad). Their friends have their own problems too, and it just shows that not everything has to be about saving the world: the little things are just as important, and can feel just as big.
One thing I love about Ness is his ability to write well rounded characters. This comes across most in Mikey, the narrator, who isn’t perfect by any means. I like him, but he’s not always likeable. His jealousy and attitudes towards new comer Nathan kept irritating me, but that’s what made him feel real. You don’t like anyone 100% of the time, and I don’t like characters that are perfect and I can’t dislike just a little bit.
For me, this book is another hit from Ness. It’s completely different to the rest of his work, but that’s not a bad thing. It might poke fun a little at my favourite YA genre, but it’s all in good humour and from someone who’s such a master story teller, I think it’s allowed.