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.

June-July 2015 Round Up

I’m behind on my goals! Here is an update. I got all of these books from my library in print or ebook.

In June and July 2015, I read:
The Apothecary by Maile Meloy
Apothecary_full.jpeg

This was a really good YA historical novel. I have a review coming up!
You Are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren
YouAreYourOwnGym

I’m interested in adding bodyweight training to my running routine. This seemed like a good place to start. (He has a woman’s version, Body by You, which I might look at too.)  I ended up not using the program from this book, but this was very inspiring and scientifically sound, so I would recommend it. Lauren also made the program into a book and app.

Living with Less: How to Downsize to 100 Personal Possessions by Mary Lambert
Livingwithless

This was a basic primer on minimalism by an English organizing consultant. I agree with some of the reviews on Goodreads that this was repetitive and a little sexist. (“Men collect sports equipment!” “Women collect clothes!”) Lambert shares excerpts from her blog when she decided to downsize to 100 items. By the end, one of her items was “T-shirts (13).” I understand grouping some things into categories, but to me 13 t-shirts is 13 items! I’m looking forward to going more in-depth on minimalism by reading The 100 Things Challenge by Dave Bruno, who invented the challenge, and The Joy of Less by Francine Jay.

The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff

SpeciesSeekers

This book explored “natural science” from around the 17th century to the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was very long, but I enjoyed learning about many of the people who “stocked” US and UK natural history museums and their adventures in other countries.
Stealing Secrets: How a Few Daring Women Deceived Generals, Impacted Battles, and Altered the Course of the Civil War by H. Donald Winkler
StealingSecrets

Winkler covered women from both the Union and the Confederacy. I ended up only reading about half of it due to time. I liked that each chapter was about a different woman, and was a good overview of each woman’s life. I recognized Harriet Tubman, Belle Boyd and Mary Surratt, but the rest I didn’t know. I would recommend it!

Deep Secret (Magids #1) by Diana Wynne Jones

DeepSecret1

I finally read this after hearing about it on Neil Gaiman’s blog a few years ago. I thought it was a children’s book, as I know Diana Wynne Jones wrote mainly for kids.  It turned out to be a novel for adults, but teens could read it too.

A Magid is a magician who handles the political relations between many worlds in the Multiverse. Each world has three Magids. Magid Rupert Venables’ superiors send him to find Earth’s third one. He finds good candidates at a science fiction convention. He doesn’t know anything about science fiction and finds it all ridiculous. He just wants to find the third Magid and save the Multiverse from evil. I liked the world building and characterization. I understand the second book is for children, elementary or middle school.

Focusing in on Reviews

So that’s what I read recently. All of those tie into my new focus of reviews:  nonfiction I want to write about, science fiction, fantasy, or historical fiction. (I didn’t read any classic novels this month, but want to add that too.)