In the background of all the TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or any one of a myriad number of YA supernatural romances, there are the kids who are just normal, although with perhaps a higher body count than the average high school class. This is a book about those kids, although actually not with a higher mortality rate - it only seems to be the "indie" kids who actually die, which doesn't really seem right given the source material. (I guess I'm only really familiar with Buffy in this particular genre.)
Each chapter of the book gives a quick synopsis of what the "Chosen" ones are going through at that particular moment, but is about a group of friends who are mostly pretty normal, trying to live their lives even when threatened by fleeing deer or people with weird blue lights in their eyes. Which is nothing compared to the vampire invasion of Aught-Something.
Several of the main characters struggle with mental health issues, and for the most part, that's fairly well done. They are all dealing with almost being done high school and those moments when you know your life is about to change when you go off to college, but you don't really know how, or if any of these friends who feel like they'll be in your life forever actually will be.
The book is mostly an evocation of that time, told by a narrator who has a frustrating home life and OCD issues, although this is OCD as handwashing and repetitive rituals exclusively - it's comparatively rare to see an author grapple with unwanted compulsive thoughts that often go along with that particular diagnosis. In fact, J.K. Rowling is the only one I can think of who makes that attempt. His sister struggles with anorexia. His dad's an alcoholic. And his mom's a politician, which sort of feels like a punchline.
I liked this book okay. Mostly where I had problems with it is that the main character is pretty much an asshole. I mean, I get his mental health issues and anxiety and OCD, but what he chooses to do with those feelings is be an utter and complete jerk to all the people around him, and while they're all kind enough to forgive and forget, I wasn't nearly as ready to cut the character that much slack.
It felt like it might have been more realistic if what he said and did to the people around him ruined one of those relationships irrevocably, and he learned that saying "I didn't mean to say those completely horrible things" isn't actually a get out of jail free card. That you can suffer from very real issues, and still try not to be a horrible human being to those around you.
I mean, he is a teenager. But it was one of those moments where I wanted there to be repercussions for his actions, instead of everyone saying "oh, no, you're always the most caring among us and the centre of our group." That can be true, AND he can have done things that change that.
Because we're in his head, we get to hear the even worse things he's not saying, like how angry he is at the indie kids for feeling so important because they keep dying, and...jesus, asshole. Seriously?
I guess I didn't so much come away from this with a deep picture of life on the other side of the Chosen/Regular kid divide, as much as I came away wanting to dunk the narrator in an ice-cold tank of water until he smartened the fuck up.
I am being harsh. I know I am. My husband doesn't really like the fifth Harry Potter book when Harry becomes a teenage jerk. I don't mind it because he doesn't spend too much time in the jerk territory, just enough to remind you he's a teenager. This feels like that turned up to 11.