Books, YA Fiction

We Are the Ants, by Shaun David Hutchinson



4.75 Stars

“Your entire sense of self-worth is predicated upon your belief that you matter, that you matter to the universe. But you don’t. Because we are the ants.”

There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.

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.

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.

This is quite possibly one the the most incredible books I’ve read in a while, and it’s books like these that disprove the notion among teenagers that sci-if and fantasy are the most interesting genres. It’s unique, raw, and completely real, I fell in love and ended it with a smile on my face.

Henry Denton is still reeling from his boyfriend’s suicide, is tormented by a bully who makes out with him privately, and to too it all off, the aliens that have been abducting him have given him a choice to save the world from certain doom, if he chooses to. Throughout the entire book, Henry felt real to me. His grief and conflict was extremely well written and called out to me like the lost puppy that he is. His view of the world was quite depressing for most of it, but as you read on, you can see him growing and changing like you’re in his head yourself. The concept of the aliens is also very ambiguous, you don’t really know whether they’re real or not.

The side characters were beautifully layered and flawed; Audrey, Diego, and even the bully Marcus had so much more to them. Hutchinson connects the past with the present to allow for multi-dimensioned characters that were fascinating to read about.

Peppered throughout the book are chapters with little scenarios depicting different ways the world ends. Although they seemed a but random at first, I grew to love them and value the insight into Henry’s head.

Although the blurb might indicate otherwise, this is not a romance story. It’s a story of grief, of life, of the universe and of growing to write our own stories. It is so, so much more than a romance, and I found myself wanting to cry one minute and laugh the next. I’ve read Hutchinson’s work in the past, particularity The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, and although both capture grief wonderfully, it’s no contest that We are the Ants is the stronger novel.

Overall, it’s a beautiful book, I can’t recommend it enough. If I could post my favorite quotes, there would be far too many, so I’ll content myself by saying that you should just read it.