on October 6, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Paranormal
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.
Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.
Let’s start with this statement: My favorite books are the ones that intrigue me, that provoke me to think long after I’ve read them, that make me start talking about it to my roommate who doesn’t really care but I just talk at her anyway. And this book did that for me. In a really interesting way. So let’s discuss, shall we?
The focus of this book is on the teens who are in the backstory of what we usually read in YA books. There’s the crazy, unique, paranormal story happening—but that’s not really what’s important. The main characters are just a group of normal people, hoping to graduate soon and live life. They call those crazy, plot-minded people “indie kids,” and those indie kids usually have something that makes them special. Something that makes them one of the Chosen Ones.
Then there’s this group of friends. We mostly follow Mikey, who’s in love with his friend Henna and who is going to graduate soon and who doesn’t really know what the future has in store for him. So, you know, a normal person. A real life human being.
And it was just so interesting to see that juxtaposition. They’re living their lives and having their problems, and then they’d see an indie kid rushing by or see a creepy, giant blue light shoot up into the sky and know it’s an indie kid thing. So they just go back to living their life. Which sounds boring when I say it like that, but it wasn’t. I still cared deeply for the plot and the characters, even though they weren’t necessarily in the thick of the paranormal drama. It was cool to see that a story can be a great story even without crazy things happening.
It really just made me think about the characters I normally see in YA and then think about the characters I don’t see in YA…but the people (like Mikey) who are affected by the crazy shenanigans of the main characters we interact with. Obviously there are people affected, and I’ve never really considered that before.
Likewise, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a book before that I can whole-heartedly classify as both contemporary and fantasy. But it totally is. There’s no other way to describe it. Because there’s this fantastical, paranormal world where these very normal and contemporaneous people are living. Ah, so interesting!
Also, Ness practically plans and writes two separate stories in this novel. There’s the main novel with Mikey and his friends. And then at the beginning of each chapter, there’s a short paragraph about what the indie kids are doing during that chapter. So you could read just the headings for each chapter and have a complete story about these indie kids. I think that’s pretty impressive, no?
And I kind of love things that are self-aware…if that’s the best way to describe it? That know their tropes and their clichés, and they play off of them. That’s why I love Jane the Virgin and Community. And that’s one of the reasons I really loved this book. Like, look at this quotes:
“Yeah, so fine, our part of town has more than its fair share of trees and less than its fair share of multiplexes, but don’t look down on us. It was just as bad here as it was for you when the indie kids were battling the undead in our neck of the woods. . . . We had the same amount of heartache when a new round of indie kids exorcized the sorrow from all those soul-eating ghosts eight years later (that was the year they blew up the high school, a heretofore unknown part of the exorcism ritual, I guess). And don’t even get me started on when the indie kids fell in love with and then defeated all the vampires a year back.” LOL
Or look at this quote talking about what the indie kids are doing throughout Chapter 10:
“Chapter the Tenth, in which indie kids Joffrey and Earth disappear from their homes, their bodies found miles away; Satchel goes into hiding at an abandoned drive-in with fellow indie kids Finn, Dylan, Finn, Finn, Lincoln, Archie, Wisconsin, Finn, Aquamarine, and Finn; seeing a blue light in the night, Satchel meets the boy from the amulet, the handsomest one she’s ever seen; he tells her this isn’t a safe place for her or the others and that they should run; then he tells her she’s beautiful in her own special way and that’s when she knows she can trust him; the indie kids go back to their homes.”
Do you see what I mean? Ness is playing with the already well-established YA tropes and clichés and genres. In a way that’s not mocking or insulting. Just a little satirical. Mostly just self-aware. And I love that. Does that make sense?
Finally, these book delves into some deep topics, even among the light satire. Mikey suffers from OCD, and though I don’t have that great of a knowledge about it, I think it handles the subject really well. It doesn’t sugar coat anything. It just seems very real. I wanted to share some quotes that I marked about this, but I think they might be a little spoiler-y, so I’ll hold off.
But I’ll just end with this lovely quote that really sums up the entire novel:
“Not everyone has to be the Chosen One. Not everyone has to be the guy who saves the world. Most people just have to live their lives the best they can, doing the things that are great for them, having great friends, trying to make their lives better, loving people properly. All the while knowing that the world makes no sense but trying to find a way to be happy anyway.”
No, I lied. I’m going to end with this gif of Kimmy Schmidt: