Strange that I read these two books back-to-back. I didn’t intend to. I borrowed The Rest of Us Just Live Here from a friend, and picked up Geektastic at the library on a whim — the covers looked so similar, I just couldn’t resist. I’m glad I read Geektastic first, because I was so disappointed in it, that Patrick Ness couldn’t help but make me feel better.
Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd should be amazing.
Its a collection of short stories from authors I like — Libba Bray, John Green, Scott Westerfeld, David Levithan, Kelly Link, and lots of others — all about life as a modern-day geek. But none of these stories particularly impressed me. Some were cute, but ultimately forgettable.
Jedi falls for Klingon at a convention. Cheerleader asks nerds in the AV Club to help her learn about geek stuff in order to make her boyfriend happy. Girl obsessed with dinosaurs is embarrassed by cool kids at school. Boy confused about his feelings for another kid on the Quiz Bowl team acts like a jerk. These are all fine, but really didn’t make an impression on me.
Some of the stories I really didn’t care for at all: Teenager in a blended family realizes she’s the Dawn of her Scooby group. A weird audition monologue for a school play about what it means to work behind the scenes, invisible to everyone else. And in my least favorite story, Kelly Link writes a crazy, nonsensical tale that couldn’t possibly take place in our world, with people I hate and actions that don’t make any sense.
I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about this book. If you are a John Green or David Levithan completist, by all means, pick it up. It isn’t terrible. It just isn’t all that good. Like the publisher was just taking these popular names in the “Nerd Herd” world and throwing their work together.
And then I read The Rest of Us Just Live Here. This was a modern-day geek story that I could really get into.
Remember the Buffy episode, The Zeppo? Where Xander has a huge adventure all on his own while the rest of the Scoobies go off fighting their own apocalypse? That’s what this reminded me of. But it didn’t have annoying Faith telling me everything was 5×5, so I liked this a lot better.
Mikey is part of a group of friends about to graduate from High School in a small, anonymous town in Washington. Weird things happen in their town all the time that nobody ever talks about — vampires attacking, Gods and Goddesses attempting to take over, fighting against the living dead, etc. — they just accept that their high school blew up again and move on.
There is a group of kids that always seem to be involved when these supernatural events occur — The Indie Kids. Kids with names like Satchel and Finn and Dylan who dress all in black and still use the card catalog to do research.
But everyone else just tries to get on with being a teenager and dealing with normal life.
Mikey feels like the least important member of his group. The Zeppo, if you will. His friends know that he sees himself this way, and call him out on his ridiculousness. But at some point, doesn’t every kid feel that way?
Here’s what’s important, Mike…What’s important is that I know how much you worry about shit. And what’s also important is that I know a big part of that worry is that, no matter what group of friends you’re in, no matter how long you’ve known them, you always assume you’re the least-wanted person there. The one everyone else could do without.
He doesn’t think he’s interesting, like his sister Mel. He isn’t beautiful like Henna. And he isn’t part God, like the amazing Jared. He’s just Mikey. Filled with anxiety and OCD. And I really enjoyed reading about his life while the world fell apart around him.
I loved Mikey’s dedication to his sisters and his unwavering love for them. I loved his acceptance of his friends — flaws and all — through good times and bad. His worries about college and the future were so realistic, they were thoughts I had a million years ago when I was actually a senior in high school. Mikey felt real to me, and I have Patrick Ness to thank for that.
I’ve only read one book by Ness before — The Knife of Never Letting Go. I liked it but didn’t love it. I think now I’ll go back and revisit some of his other books, since this one felt so right to me.
I liked it much better than The Zeppo. But The Zeppo will always have a special place in my heart because of Giles’ donut meltdown.
I’m not sure Patrick Ness can compete with that.