I’ll be honest and say I’d never heard of this book before. I’d never heard of Patrick Ness before and it wasn’t recommend to me by someone. I had no idea what it was about based off of the cover I saw on online. I was just browsing Amazon, buying all the ebooks I’d wanted two years ago but never had the funds to actually afford, when I stumbled across this book. The synopsis didn’t give me much:
“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 had so many questions, like, “Why is his best friend being worshipped by mountain lions?” and, “Who’s Henna?” And, most importantly, “HOW MANY TIMES HAS YOUR SCHOOL BEEN BLOWN UP???!!!” The book didn’t cost much, $9.99 on Kindle and $9.33 for paperback. Buying it was easy, since at 336 pages it’s a fairly light read for me.
After buying it, the book just sat in my Kindle Library gathering digital dust. Which happens more often than you think. I go out, buy books, make plans to read them once I have some downtime from the hell that is our collegiate education system. Which doesn’t happen. I get bogged down with schoolwork and the last thing I want to do is sit still and read.
Even if it will help me procrastinate.
So if you can’t tell from the synopsis, Mikey is our protagonist. He’s about to graduate high school with his three friends; his sister Melinda, his long-time crush Henna, and his best friend Jared. We’re reading from Mikey’s stream of consciousness, and normally I’m not a big fan of first person perspectives, but I decided to give this one a chance. The premise was just too good to let something that trivial affect my enjoyment of this novel.
From what Mikey tells us, something weird happens to this group of kids his friends have dubbed, “indie kids.” They have weird names, dress like hipsters, and always seems to be at the root of some plot going on in the town. And the funny part is that it’s something different each year. One year there was a vampire romance thing, another year there were zombies, and it’s always centered around the indie kids.
Mikey and his friends are not indie kids in the slightest. They’re kind of like the Jessica and Mike of Twilight. They’re friends with the main protagonist, and they’re the witness of a lot of the weird things going on in town, but they’re never actually apart of the actual drama going on in Bella’s life. In reality, they’re just trying to survive whatever the indie kids accidentally unleash upon the town.
It’s kind of like they’re living in Night Vale. Weird things happen all the time but the adults just seem oblivious to it. Always explaining away weird phenomena with hopelessly mundane reasons, that makes no actual sense when you, the reader, know’s what really going on.
In the beginning of each chapter, there’s a little excerpt of what’s going on with the indie kids. This one’s a fave of mine:
“CHAPTER THE FOURTH,
in which Satchel and Dylan sit in a coffeehouse with understated live music and discuss what Satchel’s uncle told them; Dylan also tells her it’s clear that second indie kid Finn has feelings for her; Satchel doesn’t see that this is Dylan’s way of saying that HE has feelings for her, too; later, the Messenger of the Immortals makes a surprising offer to indie kid Kerouac.”
How can you not love these! They’re so funny because the actual plot of the story deals with life as a teenager in a very real and accurate way. You have teens dealing with eating disorders, teens dealing with mental illness, teens dealing with sexuality in very small very conservative towns. And then at the beginning of each chapter you have a YA book being played out “behind the scenes”.
It’s like a meta pastry. Just layers and layers of rich, buttery, and flakey meta.
Now, back to Mikey and the gang. They’re a pretty unique group of friends, and personally I feel like the only reason they aren’t “indie kids” is because their names just don’t fit. Indie kids usually have names like, and this is a direct quote from the book by the way, “Finn, Dylan, Finn, Finn, Lincoln, Archie, Wisconsin, Finn, Aquamarine, and Finn.”
So my advice, if you don’t want to die by vampire, or be abducted by aliens, or blow up your high school, don’t be named Finn.
Mikey has OCD, Melinda suffered from an eating disorder that nearly killed her and now she’s trying to get better and stay that way, Henna has a Finnish foot doctor dad and a Black music minister mother who are missionaries, and Jared is 1/3 God on his mother’s side. To me that just screams “indie kid”, but I’m not the writer so….
My favorite thing about the book, aside from the weird town they all live in, is how the writer handles Mikey’s OCD and Melinda’s recovery from her eating disorder. There isn’t some big metaphor about how the whole thing is in their head, and if they just try hard enough it can stop affecting them. They avoid their parents because of how disappointing they are, something that I can relate to a lot as a “young adult”. Mikey and Melinda’s parents are a bit neglectful, their mother’s a politician and their father is an alcoholic who put the family into debt, but I wouldn’t expect any less from a book based on young adults.
The parents are almost always awful in someway. But at least in this book their parents have human faults, human issues. Their mother is ambitious and conservative, their father stole money brother-in-laws business and the only thing keeping him out of jail is his wife pulling some strings for him.
Their mother tries, I can say, she does seem to be aware of the fact that because of her career, her and her children don’t have the best relationship. But you can tell, that now that Mikey and Melinda are older, they understand how she works, and they don’t think she can change. They wish she would, they wish their father would try to sober up at least, if not for them then for their little sister, Meredith. But I also feel that they’re at an age where they’re disillusioned with their parents and their lives. Which I can seriously identify with.
Mikey’s seems to be depressed. The book never comes out and announces it, but justly reading how he talks about himself, how he thinks of himself in comparison to his friends, it’s painting a pretty clear picture of someone with undiagnosed depression. He struggles painfully with his OCD, getting stuck in these loops and Ness does a great job of describing that feeling of being stuck in a loop.
Mikey washes his fingers so much they crack and bleed, he washes his face so much it burns, when his friends drink soda, it has to be exactly the same or he’s uncomfortable. And his friends are aware of his issues and try to be as supportive as possible, especially Jared.
Jared, the demi-demi god, will literally pick up Mikey, and pull him away from his loop. He’ll listen to his issues and remind Mikey that there’s no problem with asking for help. Jared is probably my favorite character in the entire book. He’s just this sweetheart, who’s there for his friends and for his dad, dealing with the fact that he’s gay in a small town, that he’s part God. And the fact that he’s the God of all Cats? Are you kidding me!!! As if he wasn’t enough of a sweetheart.
Now I can probably go on and on about this books all day, but I could never do this book justice. If you want to read a story about a group of teenagers trying to survive everyday life and graduate in one piece, then I highly recommend this story.