Title: We Are the Ants
Author: Shaun David Hutchinson
Published: January 19, 2016
Genre: Science-Fiction/Young Adult
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.
Thank you so much to Simon Pulse for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
This book, and how good it was, was entirely unexpected. I didn’t expect it to be nearly as serious as it was, or for it to delve into the serious issues that it did. I didn’t expect for there to be an array of such wonderfully developed characters, and for it to be so thought provoking. I didn’t expect for it to be as sad as it was at times.
“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.”
The packaging for this book easily gets a full 5/5 stars. The cover art is just so beautiful, and honestly, while I don’t do cover buys, it’s what had me drawn to this book in the first place.
Shaun David Hutchinson is, without a doubt, an extremely talented writer. His writing is so candid, and his characters are so three-dimensional, real, and well developed. Reading from Henry’s perspective was a genuinely enjoyable experience, and the dialogue and certain scenes in this book were genuinely hilarious. Some of my only issues were that the humor and certain trains of thought could grow to be a bit too obnoxious for my taste, but it wasn’t something that constantly bothered me throughout this book.
I really enjoyed reading about the different theories as to how the world would end throughout this book – some were funny and for the sake of humor, but some were genuinely quite probable. And I’m not sure as to exactly how I feel about that
This book was also full of some really, really beautiful quotes that both made me feel small and were really comforting.
When the earth ceases to be, all those stars will shine on.
Henry Denton was, ultimately, a really likable protagonist, and the protagonist that a book like this needed. When I first began reading this book, my instinctive reaction to the question if you knew the world was going to end, and you could press a button to prevent it, would you? was, “well, obviously.” But then I really thought about it, and while I (for my own array of reasons) would press the button, I understand why Henry would have such a hard time making his decision. For someone like Henry, who has suffered through one tragedy after another in his 16 years of life, it can be easy to think that the world is too full of darkness, and that it deserves a chance to start over. This entire book is about Henry’s journey in finding out the answer to the question of whether or not he would end up pressing the button and let life go on.
When Diego was first introduced, to be completely honest, I was afraid that he was going to be a manic pixie dream boy. And while his role in this story seems that way at first, he most definitely does not end up as a manic pixie dream boy – Diego’s character is revealed to us throughout this story, and he has a life and purpose completely separate from being Henry’s love interest. He was also extremely likable, and was one of my favorite characters leaving this book. Honestly, Shaun David Hutchinson just does a great job of writing lovable characters – even when the love is grudging.
The characters in this book are so, so important – from Henry’s boyfriend who committed suicide prior to the events in this book, Henry’s ex-best friend with whom he had a falling out after Jesse’s death, his immature and borderline cruel older brother, his hurting mother who has substance abuse issues, his grandma with Alzheimer’s, and the emotionally and physically abusive guy from school that he has a ‘thing’ with, they all play extremely important roles, and have their own share of stories.
The premise of this book may initially turn some people off – I know I was skeptical at first, because I thought it honestly sounded cheesy. Which it easily could have been, if it had been in the wrong hands. But Shaun David Hutchinson writes this book so beautifully – he writes this book that revolves around Henry and the choice he’s forced to make so well. This book could be dark and sad, but it was also extremely heart-warming, and at some points could be downright hilarious. I could name a few scenes during which I was literally laughing out loud.
There were really important topics about this book that were handled really, really well – and in such a raw manner. Shaun David Hutchinson does not mince words when it comes to grief, suicide, and depression. For my own set of reasons, I really appreciated it, and thought that this book is, aside from being dark, funny, heartwarming and thought provoking, really important.
This book is not a romance whatsoever – it’s a beautifully written sci-fi/contemporary novel about healing, and it sends an amazing message about getting better and wanting to live. Ultimately, what began to fix Henry wasn’t Diego – it was Henry. And I loved that – I loved that, while all the people in Henry’s life helped to change and shape him, it was him who made his final decision for himself.
**A brief warning: for those who may be triggered by it, this book does address the topic of rape.
Overall, I gave We Are the Ants a 4.5/5 star rating – this has definitely been one of my favorite contemporary reads of 2016 so far, and I would recommend it to everyone. It’s so unexpectedly well written and poignant, and I found it best to walk into this book rather blind and without too much insight. Which, I guess, defeats the purpose of this review – but oh well!
The universe may forget us, but it doesn’t matter. Because we are the ants, and we’ll keep marching on.