I totally love being a library user!
I go in with an empty rucksack and leave absolutely laden with books to read. Can’t think why I haven’t done this earlier!
Anyway, this time around I focused mainly on the ‘teen’ section (along with the graphic novels section because why not?) and started systematically searching for authors on my wishlist. Most of them got there via Twitter; I follow the authors and their active fans (to keep my eye on the sector trends and developments etc) without actually having read their books. This is a great way to find books that audiences have loved already, (like I did with Fangirl) and my anonymous recommendation list is getting pretty huge this way… hence spending some time at the teen shelves trying to make a dent in it. Obviously, Woolwich library is by no means limitless and I can’t find many of the newer books – some authors I want to read aren’t represented at all – but I did manage to find a few of those on my hitlist, as well as discover some more stories by the same authors that weren’t previously on said list.
Today, we have the first part of a Patrick Ness double feature. He’s one of my ‘followed but not yet read’ authors, and the book I wanted to find was this one – The Rest of Us Just Live Here. It’s been spoken of (or tweeted about) almost universally well from what I can tell (and I happen to know my good friend The Book Fairy loves it, too) so I had pretty high expectations – which were pretty much met!
The basic premise of TROUJLH is a story about the ‘other’ kids in traditional YA fiction. No-one ever hears about the rest of the population of Sunnydale High, or the other residents of that town in Twilight, or the other kids in Panem – as the tagline of the book says: ‘not everyone has to be the Chosen One’. I loved this idea, and how Ness references the ‘YA chosen one’ cliche at the beginning of each chapter with a simple paragraph summarising what’s going on in that story, while the actual chapter focuses on Mikey and his friends – the ‘normal’ kids in a small town beset by supernatural disasters. We read how Mikey’s life is touched by the big heroic stories that go on, but how most of the time, he’s just trying to live a normal life with his friends and family – working out issues of unrequited love, difficult familial tensions, and mental health struggles.
That’s the other reason I really loved this book, actually – Mikey has OCD, and Ness writes about this mental illness in a really convincing way; representation is super important (as I’ve touched on before) and in this case, not just so sufferers might see themselves in literature, but so that the general population can be educated about what OCD is. It’s not a quirk, or a preference for a clean and tidy house, or an appreciation for putting things in colour or alphabetical order; it’s an illness, one that can cause misery for sufferers. Mikey mental health isn’t the point of the story – the book doesn’t feel preachy in any way – but watching him and his sister, a recovering anorexic, navigate normal life while dealing with their mental health and the weirdness that goes on with the ‘Indie Kids’ (who never seem to think to Google the issue!) makes for a great and entertaining story, as well as an educational one.