I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks Edelweiss and HarperTeen! So here’s the deal with this book: Every chapter starts off with a summary of what happened with the people who are usually the main characters of YA supernatural books we read. The ones that deal with the soul-eating ghosts or vampires or the like. Call them the indie kids, the hipsters, we all know who these people are. They’re the ones who skip out on graduation and prom because they’re too busy saving the world or spending days researching the history of the town to find out why it’s getting haunted or getting into relationships with sparkly vampires. BUT THIS BOOK IS NOT ABOUT THEM. No, it’s about a set of friends who live their lives out while the indie kids are saving the town or something. The rest of the chapter (after the summary) consists of what OUR main characters are doing. Ness is pretty much bitch slapping all those books about “the Chosen one” or “the Prophecy of Six” in each summary. It’s hilarious, especially with all the tropes he uses with amulets and Princes and love triangles – oh my! At the same time, our actual main characters are dealing with issues like life.
“And even if there’s no one in my family or my circle of friends who’s going to be the Chosen One or the Beacon of Peace or whatever the hell it’s going to be next time around, I reckon there are a lot more people like me than there are indie kids with unusual names and capital-D Destinies (though I’m being mean here; they’re often quite nice, the indie kids, just… they’ve got a clan and they’re sticking to it). Me, all I want to do is graduate.”
The main characters (as seen from the American covers: Mel, Jared, Mike (narrator), and Henna) go through events in their teenage lives that are so realistic and relatable to all of us – getting over a crush, recovering from anorexia, facing anxiety from oncoming college years, etc. Mel and Mike are children of a campaigning politican and an alcoholic. Jared is gay and has a special relationship with cats. Henna’s parents go on missionary trips to Africa – which there’s a war going on right now in the Central African Republic. Each character has to deal with their own problems, but in the end they all come together as a group of friends. And while this is happening, they’re also affected, like the rest of the population, by what the indie kids are conjuring up. Ness doesn’t beat around the bush in regards to sex, homosexuality, and mental illnesses in this book. It’s quite straightforward and there’s no glorifying it or making any of those concepts a big deal. He writes them just like we should treat them – as things people go through as life continues. Each character is realistic and three-dimensional. They’re just trying to survive in the crazy thing called life, and it makes us realize that we don’t have to have a parent that’s a god or have a scar in the shape of a thunderbolt to have a story – we can make our own.
“‘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.'”