Or ‘Not Everyone Has to be the Chosen One’ as it also says on the cover of Patrick Ness’s new novel. It makes sense. We can’t all be chosen as some kind of figurehead, although we are all special in some way.
You can’t tell where this book is going, which is refreshing. It’s so ordinary in its setting, telling us about the last few weeks before graduation for a group of five high school students in a small town in north western USA. Except, there are odd things happening around them. Each chapter begins with a short piece about the ‘indie kids’ and all the weird and awful things done to them. It’s like a fantasy element that doesn’t belong in this ordinary town, were it not for the fact that our five characters hear about when someone has been found dead, or has gone missing, the same way the reader has just witnessed in the chapter intro.
Indie or not, this is basically about growing up and leaving home to go to college, leaving friends behind, and not believing in yourself or suffering unrequited love (particularly bad if it’s one of your best friends). Being gay. The possibility of your high school being blown up. Or maybe about being killed by zombie deer.
It seems every generation has suffered some odd or dangerous threat, like vampires. ‘Our’ teenagers have these inexplicable deaths in the ‘indie’ camp, as well as the odd blue light seen in the woods. And the zombie deer.
Mikey, who is the narrator, feels he’s somehow less than the rest of his group of friends (rather like most of us do), and he suffers from OCD, and from having a politically ambitious mother who occasionally forgets her family needs to be normal.
It’s odd. Not much happens, if you don’t count stuff that might determine the rest of your life, or your indie school friends being killed, or the school being blown up [before graduation]. Or the zombie deer.
Patrick understands the power of names. The indie kids are mostly called Finn, which is as it should be, or Satchel, Kerouac and Dylan. Mikey’s best friend is Jared Shurin, who came in second place after Mikey’s secret love Henna Silvennoinen in the charity auction to be a character in Patrick’s book. I share his gratitude to Henna for winning, because it’s a name that really, really makes this character.
This novel is crazy and calm at the same time. It’s compellingly good, not to mention different in just the right way.