The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness

RestofUs

The Rest of Us Just Live Here
by Patrick Ness
2015
HarperTeen

Source: Public Library

Format: Print

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 worshiped by mountain lions.

Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.

This book was amazing! I read it halfway through as an ebook, had to return it, then finished it once the hard copy came in at the library. The characters were real people, with flaws. Events that would have been melodramatic in another book were emotional in this one, because they focused on Mikey’s relationships with his family and friends.

Mike lives in Washington state with his mom, dad, and two sisters. Their small town is overrun every generation or so by some creature or other–Gods and Goddesses, vampires, aliens, the walking dead. The “indie kids” are the heroes and heroines of YA paranormal/fantasy novels: “That group with the cool-geek haircuts and the thrift shop clothes and names from the fifties. Nice enough, never mean, but always the ones who end up being the Chosen One when the vampires come calling or when the alien queen needs the Source of All Light or something. . . .They’ve always got some story going on that they’re heroes of. The rest of us just have to live here, hovering around the edges, left out of it all, for the most part.” As a regular kid, Mikey just wants to hang out with his friends before graduation casts them out into the world. And make out with his friend Henna, before she leaves for Africa with her doctor parents.

His sister Mel, aka Melinda, is a year older than him, but was held back by a eating disorder. Mike struggles with his OCD–washing his hands until they bleed, counting anything over and over. Fortunately, he has his best friend Jared to get him out of “loops.” Jared is gay, and possibly in love with Mikey. He’s also a demigod of cats. Mikey’s sister Meredith is ten, a genius, and the only one in the family not messed up, according to him.

I liked the way Ness told two stories in one book. The main story in each chapter was Mike’s story. The other story was a basic YA paranormal novel told in the chapter headings. For example: “Chapter the First, in which the Messenger of the Immortals arrives in a surprising shape, looking for a permanent Vessel; and after being chased by her through the woods, indie kid Finn meets his final fate.” Mike and his friends only see Finn run into the forest, followed by strange blue light. That way of storytelling made the book more than just a spoof of popular YA fiction.

I also liked that the emotional scenes were about Mike’s family for the most part. His dad is an alcoholic, but the sad depressed kind, not the scary abusive kind. His local politician mom appears to care more about her run for U.S. Senate than her family. His grandma has Alzheimer’s, but not “kooky Alzheimer’s” where she says cute things, the real kind where she doesn’t know who she is anymore. So Mike just talks at her when he visits her. His life sucked relative to the indie kids’ lives, which became part of the main theme of the book, friendship. He loves his family and friends for the messed up people they are, and makes do the best he can.

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Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brian

Z for Zachariah

by Robert C. O’Brian

Source: Public library

Hardcover

2007 (1974)

Simon & Schuster Pulse

 

After a nuclear war, sixteen-year-old Ann has survived on her family’s farm, in a valley that has its own weather system. She misses her parents and brothers, who left and never returned. She has a cow for milk and chickens for eggs. The general store in town has supplies of canned goods and men’s clothing for her to use. She also works on her garden. One of the two streams in the valley stayed fresh. One day a man arrives in an anti-radiation suit. He’s John Loomis, a scientist from Cornell University in New York. He created the suit shortly before the war, then went out in search of survivors. Even with his Geiger counter, he bathes in the irradiated stream and gets radiation sickness, so Ann has to nurse him back to health.

John wants the world as it was–except with him in control of civilization.  He’s very practical for a post-apocalyptic person. Ann asks if she could take the suit to get books from the town’s library, like Shakespeare and Dickens. He refuses, because textbooks and technical manuals have “more use.” He thinks she’s stupid because she’s young, and forces her to work for him. She has to fight and escape him. It turned into a good thriller once that happened! I liked Ann as a protagonist.
I had difficulty knowing where this was set, even with the long descriptive passages of the valley, hills, and town. I thought since New York was “very far away,” Ann must have lived in the Southeast, like Kentucky or Virginia.

The “About the Author” page at the end of the book said Robert C. O’Brian left notes for this after his death in 1973, so it was finished by his wife and daughter. That only bothered me a little because the tone and writing stayed the same throughout the book.

 

Adaptation by Malinda Lo (Adaptation #1)

AdaptationMalindaLoAdaptation (Adaptation #1)

by Malinda Lo

2012

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Ebook

Source: Public library (Overdrive)

Summary from Goodreads:
Reese can’t remember anything from the time between the accident and the day she woke up almost a month later. She only knows one thing: She’s different now.
Across North America, flocks of birds hurl themselves into airplanes, causing at least a dozen to crash. Thousands of people die. Fearing terrorism, the United States government grounds all flights, and millions of travelers are stranded.
Reese and her debate team partner and longtime crush David are in Arizona when it happens. Everyone knows the world will never be the same. On their drive home to San Francisco, along a stretch of empty highway at night in the middle of Nevada, a bird flies into their headlights. The car flips over. When they wake up in a military hospital, the doctor won’t tell them what happened, where they are—or how they’ve been miraculously healed.
Things become even stranger when Reese returns home. San Francisco feels like a different place with police enforcing curfew, hazmat teams collecting dead birds, and a strange presence that seems to be following her. When Reese unexpectedly collides with the beautiful Amber Gray, her search for the truth is forced in an entirely new direction—and threatens to expose a vast global conspiracy that the government has worked for decades to keep secret.

This was a good YA sci-fi thriller with memorable, realistic characters. It reminded me of The X-Files.  (Or, more recently Orphan Black.) Reese discovers she has special abilities after being treated for injuries at a secret military hospital, and gets drawn into a government conspiracy.

Lo wrote memorable characters. Reese comes to understand the difference between being attracted to someone and being in love with them. She’s attracted to her debate partner David, but then realizes she’s in love with Amber, the mysterious girl she met by chance. She eventually suspects Amber of being involved with the military conspiracy, which was the other part that reminded me of Orphan Black. The supporting characters were also memorable. Reese’s best friend Julian is a conspiracy theorist, and makes her investigate the connections between the secret hospital and the government. His being biracial was a part of him, but not so much that it defined his character. The same went for Reese’s bisexuality, which I liked. So all the characters were well-rounded.

I liked that the parents were in the story, instead of absent so the plot could advance. Lo portrayed Reese’s mom’s struggle to be a good single parent well. The way she wrote about Reese’s deadbeat dad made me think he shows up more in the sequel.

Weird Wednesday: New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird edited by Paula Guran

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Weird Wednesday is a monthly feature about “weird” fiction, which is a combination of science fiction/fantasy and horror, or sometimes pure surrealism. 

New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird

Edited by Paula Guran

Prime Books

2011

Source: Ebook from the library (OverDrive)

For this first installment of Weird Wednesday, I chose a book of stories based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, one of the “fathers” of weird fiction. I’ve read some H.P. Lovecraft, but I don’t like his Cthulhu stories much. I don’t see the universe as inherently frightening and overwhelming.

It took me a long time to get through this book as it was too much of the same thing. A lot of the stories in this were about people stumbling on or discovering the Lovecraftian monsters. My favorites were the ones where the monsters were known to some people but not to others, or the monsters were known to everyone.

My favorite stories were:

“Fair Exchange” by Michael Marshall Smith: A thief in London steals a mysterious artifact from the house of a strange American family.

“A Study in Emerald” by Neil Gaiman: One of my favorite Gaiman stories! In a world taken over by the Elder Gods, a man much like Dr. Watson meets a man much like Sherlock Holmes.

“Bad Sushi” by Cherie Priest: An old Japanese man encounters the monster he fought decades before.

“The Essayist in the Wilderness” by  William Browning Spencer: A man decides his life’s work is to write essays about nature. He observes the life cycle of “crawdads,” which are baby Cthulhus.

“The Dude Who Collected  Lovecraft” by Nick Mamatas and Tim Pratt: A story where the characters discuss Lovecraft himself.

“Cold Water Survival” by Holly Phillips: An update of sorts to “At the Mountains of Madness.” Explorers in the now melting Arctic find Lovecraftian monsters have adapted to climate change.

“Mongoose” by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette: A science fiction novella about a man who uses a small tame Lovecraftian monster to hunt giant ones in a space station.

So a mixed bag of stories. I might look into the second book, New Cthulhu 2.

Lexicon by Max Barry

LexiconLexicon by Max Barry

2013

Penguin

Source: ebook from public library

What an exciting thriller! Lexicon is one of those books I feel I can’t say too much about the plot, as it would spoil the book.

In alternating chapters, we have the stories of Wil and Emily. Wil is meeting his girlfriend at an airport when a mysterious man with a gun kidnaps him. A secret organization recruits homeless teen con artist Emily to attend their Academy. Eventually they meet each other, Emily having learned how to control people using words.

Barry brought up timely themes about the use and misuse of words in the Information Age. Yes, you lose privacy online, but the bigger issue is someone can take your information and use it to manipulate you. He also brings to mind the question “Who or what is controlling the people who control you?”

There was good character development throughout the novel, using the alternating viewpoints of Wil, Emily, and sometimes other characters. The only part I had trouble with was figuring out what was a flashback and what was in the present. That might have been because I read it so fast, though!

Like his previous novel Jennifer Government, Max Barry makes a compelling story out of current events and ideas.