Title: We Are the Ants
Author: Shaun David Hutchinson
Genre: Young Adult Sci-Fi
Synopsis: Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year. What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.
We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson is easily summarized by stating that this is a book about grief. Our first person narrator, Henry, is a teen who is abducted by aliens, these aliens show him the end of the world on January 29th and also give him the power to stop it. These same events are correlating with Henry having quite an awful time, even by adult standards. Henry’s boyfriend killed himself a few months ago without a note, leaving Henry with a horrible deep depression. This book is his journey as he tries to handle his grief and the things he has no control over. On top of that, his home life is stressful but above all, he is the victim of one of the worst bullying I’ve read in YA. I mean, cops have to get involved type of bullying. I want to mention this because this book is filled with triggers; suicide, rape, verbal abuse, physical abuse, humiliation and severe bullying.
Overall – this book is utterly beautiful. This is one book I want to give to all teens because I can imagine it speaks to them on a level that deeply impacts them, it’s relatable. Henry is very relatable for teens and anyone who is in deep depression. Hutchinson has a great way with language and he weaves scientific fact as metaphors in an elegant manner. I took a mean pink highlighter to this book and I don’t regret it. I did find some parts of it a little repetitive but I imagine that was because it was meant to reiterate certain points but as an adult reader it felt a little on the nose at times but that was so minimal it’s almost not worth mentioning. I will say, if you go in expecting a lot of sci-fi you will not find that here, this is purely a YA contemporary and in my SPOILER section I will discuss in depth.
I want to touch briefly on my final thoughts that will reveal plot points so please don’t read if you don’t want to be spoiled.
I don’t think there were ever aliens, I think Hutchinson craftily used aliens and the end of the world as beautiful symbolism to Henry’s inherit alienation from everyone around him and his own desire to end ‘his world’ because of his inability to cope with his grief and Jesse’s death. I think Henry suffered two great loses – the first was his father, as he states in the book, his father leaving and his first ‘abduction’ happen around the same time. His second loss, Jesse’s death, brings about the end of the world choices. Both the abductions and the end of the world are a manifestation of Henry’s internal struggle. He blacks out for days, he has hallucinations – I’m not a psychologist but anyone can see he is experiencing displacement, severe mental trauma and deep depression. Henry is an unreliable narrator but done in the most excellent of ways and I give Hutchinson 100% props for crafting such an impeccable story.
Now, despite giving this book 5 stars (well deserved) I don’t think this is a favorite of mine. Despite connecting deeply with certain phrases and quotes, I was alien to Henry and his world. I can appreciate it as an observer but it didn’t stir emotions in me like other books have. That is of personal nature, it’s got to do with me being 36 and seeing things differently than Henry who is a sad boy who I deeply sympathize with rather than identify with. Also, despite his romance with Diego being lovely and sweet it didn’t make me gush like it probably did for others but I think this is because Hutchinson did a great job of portraying teen romance which I see with a critical eye. My personal favorite character was Charlie – his character development was amazing as was how Hutchinson wrote him.
Overall? GO READ THIS BOOK.