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Book Review: We are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

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Title: We are the Ants

Author: Shaun David Hutchinson

Genre: YA, scifi, contemporary

Pages: 455

Synopsis: Goodreads

Rating: tealstartealstartealstartealstar

 


 

If you knew the world was ending and you could save it by pressing a button, would you?

To be honest, if given the choice, some days I don’t think I would press the button. Those are probably the days I remember that I have no job, that my future is uncertain, that my relationship with my mom is rocky and awkward at best and that my dad is struggling with dementia and seizures on a daily basis. The easy days are obviously easy but what happens on my darkest days? When my problems seem too much to bear and I feel trapped and it’d be easier to just let go? Is this world worth it?

Our main character, Henry Denton seeks to answer these questions. To be quite frank, I can see why he initially doesn’t want to have anything to do with his life anymore. His mom is always stressed from work; his grandmother is suffering from worsening dementia; his brother Charlie, who is going to be a father soon, bullies him mercilessly; the school bully Marcus repeatedly beats him up. He has no friends and and an all consuming guilt  about his boyfriend Jesse’s suicide. Oh, and to top if off, aliens are kidnapping him at random times to do experiments on him and gives him the choice of whether or not to save the world in 144 days. Joy.

The aliens (scifi) comprise only about 3% of the book, the rest is 97% YA contemporary as we follow Henry and see he struggles with asking why his boyfriend would leave him in this world alone and coming to terms about the fact that sometimes there are things that are not his fault. The aliens are really only used as a framing device (and a good one at that) to provide a sense of urgency and realness to the question. It’s one thing for a teenage main character to think about ending the world (he’s not) and another to actually be burdened with the real choice. It really gives a magnitude to the struggles that Henry is facing and a sense of responsibility to Henry.

So this book is mostly YA contemporary. YA contemporaries can easily delve into melodrama, pretentiousness, oversimplification, or worst of all, falsely and forcefully inspirational and there were times when I thought this book was borderline two of the above but it saves itself. There are 2 reasons for this. One is Henry’s narrative voice. His perspective is the perfect balance of sarcastic, biting humor and open honesty.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to believe Charlie and I come from the same parents. I’m tall, he’s short; I’m skinny, he used to be muscular, though most of it turned to fat after high school; I can count to five without using my fingers. . . . Charlie has fingers.”

But I felt for him because he always insists his struggles don’t matter and he goes about his life just trying to survive when I thought he deserved so much more. But even as I hated some of the secondary characters particularly Marcus and his brother, I realize that none of them exist just to give Henry a hard time and make him want to end the world. Every single secondary character gets their own moments to shine and it somehow feels satisfying and so real and not something the author just made up for convenience to the story. That’s when you know an author respects the characters he writes.

The second reason is, the book doesn’t pretend that everything is fine or will ever be fine. It knows that life doesn’t exist as one clear-cut problem and then a clear-cut solution. There’s only problems and possibly routes to solutions and sometimes there is no solution and I appreciated that honesty a lot.

“The universe may forget us, but it doesn’t matter.Because we are the ants, and we’ll keep marching on.”

So does Henry end up pressing that button? I think you already know. But how Henry finds his silver lining is just one of the things that make this book worth reading.

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18 thoughts on “Book Review: We are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

  1. Oh my gosh, your review started off real deep this time, Carolyn. If you ever need a lending ear to talk to when you have one of those days let me know. I share a really bad relationship with mom, too. 😥 I haven’t seen or talked to here for about three years now. But anyway, onwards with my comment about the review. This one sounds very intriguing and I really like the quotes you incorporated in your review. I’m also happy to hear that the narrator is engaging; those are really hard to find sometimes. So I may pick it up someday! And nice review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know but this book reminded me of those things in my life so I thought I’d just mention it. Thanks, Summer! You da best :’) And same to you. Relationships are hard especially when it’s a person you are suppose to be close too :/
      And I think you would like this book Summer =) Thanks!! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds like a lovely book, we all have our dark hour as you obviously know from your first paragraph – but it’s worth it to remember why the world is worth preserving. I really need to look into this read, I love contemporary books with a slight scifi blend e.g. More Happy Than Not. Fantastic review, and I hope you’ll have more day where you will push the button then not!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Aentee! 🙂 And I started reading More Happy Than Not and I think it has about the same percentage of scifi content as this one. It’s more of like a framing device than actual scifi but yea I hope you like it 🙂

      Like

  3. Man that’s depressing af. I wish I was an ant. LOOL you get it?
    Anyways, really nice review. The title sounds really awkward until you put that quote and now I understand it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This sounds really interesting, but I have this irrational fear of aliens and abductions. I don’t believe in aliens, but the thought of them makes me quiver in fear. I stay away from those discovery channel documentaries, lest my imagination gets the best of me. That being said I do like that the book doesn’t romanticize real life. Yes, fiction is there as an escape, but at the same time, I think contemporaries that stay realistic (minus the aliens…at least I hope) are more well-rounded. Nice review, Carolyn!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Alicia! =) I find realistic contemporaries to be both depressing and reassuring at the same time, because on the one hand I know I’m not alone but on the other, it’s real life and that’s depressing lol.
      If it makes you feel better, the aliens really only appear for a handful of scenes so I don’t think they’ll hinder your reading experience too much. And aliens are scary! I think I believe in them more than ghosts which is really odd lol

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, I know what you mean about realism in fiction. I’d rather ghosts exist than aliens. I’m not sure what it is, maybe because they could more plausible, what do we really know about space? I’m going to weird myself out right now, so I’m gonna stop talking about this.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: May 2016 Wrap Up
  6. mmmm yaaas i just finished the book yesterday, and i loved it so much. i totally agree that using aliens and sci-fi-ish elements was a great framing device. (also i’d be beyond happy if you could go check out my review of dis lovely book <3)

    Liked by 1 person

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