by Patrick Ness
Mike knows he’s never going to be the Chosen One, and that’s okay. His life is already complicated enough as it is, and dealing with a vampire takeover or the coming of the Ancient Ones would just be a hassle. Plus, the indie kids will save the day. They always do.
All Mike really wants to do is ask his friend to the prom, graduate high school, and survive until all this crazy supernatural stuff blows over. It might be too much to ask, but when your best friend is being worshiped by mountain lions you start believing everything is possible.
This was an interesting read, mostly because I expected this book to be funny – and while it’s not without its humour, it’s really not all that comedic. In fact, it’s a straight teen drama story with supernatural elements thrown in more as background than anything else. There’s a bit of sarcastic comedy peppered through (of the “all the indie kids have weird hipster names” variety) but it’s very understated.
I was immediately drawn to the concept : exploring what life would look like for all those background characters in your average YA supernatural novel. After all, just because the Ancient Ones are threatening to take over the world doesn’t mean that it’s the most important part of everyone’s day – and it also doesn’t mean that only the protagonists get to help out in meaningful ways.
Each chapter begins with a short synopsis of the “real” plot of the novel – the one with the indie kids and the supernatural romance – before we proceed to whatever our main characters are doing at that moment. They have problems of their own: mental illness, overbearing parents, unrequited crushes, getting into college, figuring out your life – like I said, straight teen drama. And that story is engaging enough on its own, even though it has little to do with any of the supernatural events in the backdrop. I can think of only a single instance in which the magical elements couldn’t have been replaced with something mundane without affecting the overall plot. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe the point is to show that every story is worth telling, even the ones that have nothing to do with earth-shattering events or saving the world. The fact that this story could have been entirely non-magical makes it a theme rather than a failure to integrate your subplots. Good on you, Mr. Ness.
However this theme is somewhat betrayed by the ending, which relies on a literal Deus ex Machina – yes, gods are a thing in this universe – to play out. No godly powers? No Mike regaining faith in his friendships, no saving the day, and the school explodes with everyone inside.
This book is its own pleasant read, and I don’t want to imply that it’s truly bad in any way. I just wish it was a little bit more: a little more magical, a little more mundane, a little more silly, a little more something. As is, this book is just like its supernatural subplot: understated, interesting enough on its own, but lacking an extra little push to make it truly memorable.