I had heard of this book by Patrick Ness around the time it came out, but I was sure I would never have the time to get around to it, so I kind of forgot about it. Then a friend of mine listened to the audiobook and raved about it – after admitting she’s never watched “Buffy.” Being a huge “Buffy” fan myself, that just intrigued me more, but again, I didn’t have time so I forgot about it.
Then my mom started listening to the audiobook a few days before Thanksgiving. She loved it and knew I would love it because she’s the reason I’m a “Buffy” fan.
It’s a short book and I had a lot of time to listen while baking pies for Thanksgiving so I finished it in a couple days. Based on what I had heard, I had thought it was going to be about some of the side characters in “Buffy,” but it takes place in modern days (I keep forgetting just how old “Buffy” is) and the small town in which they live is never even mentioned.
The narrator, Mike, isn’t a Chosen One or a witch or a god. He’s just your average teenager dealing with your average teenage problems – except the world keeps trying to end around him, the “indie kids” always seem to be involved, and Mike and his friends and family sometimes end up as collateral damage.
Each chapter begins with a brief description of what the indie kids are up to before getting back to Mike and his friends, who are affected by the world trying to end, but had no idea what was going on. All they knew was that the indie kids always seemed to be involved.
Mike’s life is hard enough without indie kids trying to blow up his school … again. His dad’s an alcoholic, his mom is a politician who is constantly trying to put on the “perfect family” front, his sister is recovering from anorexia and he’s struggling with OCD.
I thought this book did an excellent job of portraying mental illness. Ness is a master at making you feel Mike’s struggle every time he “gets stuck in a loop” of washing his hands or brushing his teeth or whatever it might be. He knows what he’s doing isn’t rational, but the compulsion is just too strong.
Mike apparently used to see a therapist and then stopped for a while. When his OCD starts acting up again, he asks his mom if he can go back to his therapist, who talks through some of his issues with him and prescribes medication. Mike wants to be able to live without medication because, even though he knows it’s not a matter of will power, there’s part of him that still can’t let go of the idea that he should be able to stop whenever he wants.
Mike goes through a lot in the three weeks the book covers. He’s involved in a car crash and gets stitches, almost gets blown up at a concert with his sisters, and finally gets to be with the girl he’s been pining over for years, only to realize they’re not right for each other.
Mike does a lot of growing in the course of this book, but I think my favorite part was the end when his friend saves the life of one of the indie kids … right before the school blows up on graduation day.
I saw a number of reviews by people who said this book reminded them of the prom episode of “Buffy” in which they award her “Class Protector.” I was also reminded of that episode while listening to this audiobook, but I’m not sure why. Far from realizing the indie kids are always there to look out for them, Mike actually spends most of the book blaming them for the things that go wrong and the fact that they don’t seem to care who gets hurt while they’re doing whatever it is whatever they do. It isn’t until the end of the book, when one of the indie kids says, “I don’t know why these things keep happening to us,” that Mike realizes the indie kids are teenagers like him who are just trying to find their place in the world and survive long enough to graduate from high school.
What did you guys read/listen to this week? Anything else inspired by a cult favorite?