Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Everybody Sees the Ants -- a review

Everybody Sees the Ants - A.S. King - 288 pages

Just like Neo in The Matrix I made an audible "Whoa!" at the end of this book. Just like Neo in The Matrix I was downloaded into someone else's reality and forced to live in their world. Seeing the world through Lucky Linderman's eyes reminded me of being a teenager; the pressure, the bullies, and the constant bullshit.

Except that Lucky is nothing like Neo; all that Lucky can do is dream about his grandfather who went missing during the Vietnam War. Lucky has no evil machines to fight; just a bully named Nadar McMillan who is a special kind of sociopath.

Grandpa's world is the only place that Lucky can escape to. There's no real bullshit there and Lucky serves a purpose: rescue grandfather at all costs. Are the dreams real? Or is Lucky experiencing Dr. House-like hallucinations?

Eventually Lucky's mother tires of the bullying and takes him to his Uncle's. And as always adventures do ensue. And as always there's a girl there for Lucky. And as always this is where things take an interesting turn.

We realize that Lucky does have a few problems; he's not a reliable narrator, and who the hell sends out suicide questionnaires as a social studies project? Who the hell doesn't stick up for themselves? What kind of a father just ignores his teenage son's problems? What kind of mother spends all day swimming away her issues?
"Good luck with that. Escaping assholes is about as easy as escaping oxygen."
The line between my life, Lucky's life, and Lucky's dreams blurred for me at one point. All that social pressure came back. The bully-e and the bully-er. The feeling that adults just. Don't. Get. It. That rush of a first kiss and the nervous realization that--as a guy--you will have to deal with vaginas for the rest of your life.

This is one young adult novel that gets it right in a way that John Green* and others can't; the amount of cursing, the amount of sexual tension, the amount of grit, and the occasional boner are all in here.** Many authors shy away from strong language for obvious reason; but this is how our children talk when we aren't around, this is what they think and this is how they feel these days.

This book produced a few sobs, a few what the fuck moments of anger, and one big WHOA at the end. And yeah, I giggled at the boner jokes.

Note: There is a song called Sleeping Sickness by a band called City & Colour. It fits the tone of this book perfectly.
*I love John Green. I am in no way knocking him. 
**The right level of cuteness for a young adult novel is still retained, however.
End Note: Boner. Hehehehe.


  1. dang, this one must've left quite an impression. i don't love contemporary books but i am making an honest attempt at reading more of them. i just threw this one on my list to tackle. it sounds hard-core and makes me scared i'll cry. i don't like crying.

  2. It did. It's probably in my top five of books of the year.

  3. I just love A.S. King a whole lot. I look forward to this book even MORE now after this review, particularly because she nails the teenage experience (as you so eloquently put it).

  4. She did! It made me glad to not be a teenager.

  5. First of all, hello fellow City & Colour fan! what up! I love that guy.

    Second, I've seen this book in passing but that's it. Now you've peeked my interest & I want to read it, so thank you for that.

    Third, boner. hahahaha

  6. There's so much I loved in this book, from the character Lucky himself, to Ginny and Lucky's mom, to the little things that made it so different from anything I'd read before, like Lucky's healing wound, frank talk about the Vietnam War draft lottery, the way Lucky sees his parents and...well I could go on and on, but I'd rather leave it up to you to discover. Another great book from A.S. King!
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  7. My Junior High students love this. I worried that it was too controversial for them but instead it is a much needed conversation starter about bullying issues.

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