By Patrick Ness
This book is like if we got the stories of some of Buffy’s classmates at Sunnydale High – there are terrible, supernatural things happening, but there’s nothing they can do about it, so it is mostly in the background of their everyday lives. I don’t normally like stories about non-fantasy teenagers (even when I was a teenager I couldn’t really relate), but this novel is just so well written!
Each chapter opens with a short paragraph summarizing the large-scale supernatural events being battled by the various chosen ones. The rest of the book is narrated by a high school senior stressed out over prom, graduating, leaving for college, and battling varying levels of OCD. He and his friends very occasionally witness the periphery of the larger battles, but somehow the author is able to use this to emphasize how equally important the everyday struggles are.
So, I was initially attracted to the book by the interesting and unusual premise, but two specific attributes of the novel really made it stand out for me. Ness writes with a really nice, light touch on diversity — it becomes apparent that characters are different ethnicities only way after their more important individual character traits are established. Ness keeps it true to life, as well, with their cultural backgrounds being an important part of who they are, but certainly not their primary defining characteristic.
Secondly, Ness does a truly spectacular job of addressing dealing with various mental illnesses. Our main character has occasional bouts of pretty severe OCD, while his sister is recovering from anorexia. Again, Ness shows how these are not insignificant in the characters’ lives, but they are also just one aspect of the many, many traits that make people so individual. This book would have done me a world of good in high school, quite frankly.