★★★★★/★★★★★ We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson.
I received this book for review from Goodreads and SimonTEEN, in exchange for an honest review.
I will begin this review by saying that, this is how young-adult novels should be written. Not only is it a wonderful story of love, loss, friendship, family, lost dreams, and secrets, but it also has aliens, a character secure in his sexuality, and eight reasons the world could possibly end in January 29, 2016.
This book follows Henry, who is being abducted by aliens, their hope is that he will press a button that will stop the end of the world. Henry however, does not want to press the button, his boyfriend killed himself, he lost his only other friend, he is sleeping with a bully, and life at home is not as great as it could be. He much rather see the world burn. Now this is the part were most people would say “until he meets Diego Vega,” but saying that will do this book a disservice. It is not Diego who changes Henry’s life, he changes it himself, Diego is merely a tool, just like everyone else around him, as well as his alien abductions, and his family dilemma.
When I first received the book, I had very little hopes for it. The author was not someone I had heard of, and this was not a book that many people in the book blogging/vlogging community was speaking about. They should be speaking about it, the book deserves more conversation than it has been getting.
The first chapter was most captivating. I usually make my impression f a book by reading the first chapter of a book, it sets the mood and pace for the rest of the story, this first chapter was magnificent. It begins with the sentence. “Life is bullshit,” which pretty much describes the character’s life at the beginning and middle of the story, he then goes on a tangent about life sucking, and then makes a comparison of how people keep working no matter what, just like the ants, he says, “We are the ants.” And then the author proceeds to blow my mind with the reminder of is work.
Perhaps the best and worst aspect of the book is the way it reads. It is a book that can be read extremely quickly, and for a young-adult book, it is a good thing. Quick books keep the younger audience entertained, and less likely to put it down for some mindless read (do not lie to yourself, there are books targeted for young adults that are mindless). But it did go by too quickly. It is a book over four-hundred pages long, and it read like a two-hundred page one. It would have been perfect if it slowed down a tiny bit for the most memorable scenes.
There were other things I was not as pleased with. My hope for a redeemable character was shattered to bits, my hopes for a deeper understanding of the alien’s wishes, and a deeper sense of why Jesse did what he did were not as thoroughly explored as I wished, but everything else that could have, was.
Family dynamics were explored, and I am so pleased. The past few months have been the months for me to discover authors that understand how important family is for characters, and actually add them to the story instead of making them completely absent, this is one of those lucky books. Henry has a brother that has dropped out of college and gotten his girlfriend pregnant, and throughout the work we think we know who he is, we are wrong, we know nothing about him. There is a grandmother with Alzheimer, and one of the family problems is whether or not to put her in a home, and I believe the discussion, albeit brief throughout the entirety of the novel, was done quite well. Henry’s mother studied culinary arts, but she now works at a diner, her dreams shattered, and she has her own journey, with the help of a mirror. I could not have asked more for a family.
Want to know something else that was done well? Teachers that actually care for their students. Throughout my life I have encountered teachers that care about what they teach, teachers that recognize the talent of their students, teachers that do not ignore calls or pleas from their students, here we get two examples of those. We have one of Henry’s current teachers, who will not let him slack off simply because he believes the world is ending, she pushes him to, not only do a project o get his grade back up, but to confront the people harming him, sometimes by simply speaking to him. The other example is a teacher in his first-grade class. A person that did not stop when everyone else said he would never be smart enough to read, instead the teacher tutored him every day until he became a bibliophile. The trope of the uncaring teacher that ignores everything going under their nose is eliminated here. Ah, such a crowd pleaser.
There were also the little things, such as how someone actually preferred Matt Smith over David Tennant from Doctor Who (who would do that?), as to the imperfections of other people, such as a character claiming his favourite work was “The Catcher in the Rye,” but actually was “Twilight,” and how he believed that he needed to lie so that no one would see who he truly was. Friendship here was one of the driving forces of the story, but the way it occurred made it seemed as a secondary plot, and it was not. There was also the detail of science, which the author used, not only to explain the possible ways the world could end so quickly, but to explain other simply things, including attraction and making out. I also wished for more backstory on Diego. His lack of a full backstory was perfect for his character, it made him all we needed, but me, being myself, wanted more.
“We Remember the past, live in the present, and write the future.”
This is a book that will stay with me for the rest of the year, a book I will think about, constantly, because it had potential to be much more, but I would not demand anything else because I loved it.