Thursday, May 2, 2013

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King

Title: Everybody Sees the Ants
A.S. King
Publisher: Hachette
Release Date: October 3, 2011
Rating: 4/5

Cover Impressions: 
Love the simplicity of the black and white image with the details of the bullseye and the ant. 

The Gist:
In Lucky Linderman's dreams he treks through the Vietnamese jungle in search of his long lost grandfather.  In reality, he laments his parent's marriage troubles and tries to escape the bully that tortures him.  When a violent episode forces his mother to open her eyes she whisks him away to his uncles where he is finally able to put his situation in perspective. 


Everybody Sees the Ants is not an easy read.  It tells the story of Lucky Linderman, a boy who has been bullied since he was a young child.  The story begins with an incident where Lucky attempts to make a school project about suicide and gets himself and several other boys in trouble.  This begins the an intense period of bullying that is often violent and with a sexual undertone.  The narrative moves back and forth in time from this point and from a further incident that causes Lucky's mother to immediately flee with him to her brother's home.  There is also an element of magical realism that adds humor and whimsy.  Lucky spends his night visiting his grandfather who was lost in Vietnam.  Each night, he attempts to rescue him and, remarkably, brings back souvenirs to prove that his time spent in the jungle is more real than anyone would believe.  Lucky also starts to see ants that observe his story and add hilarious commentary. 

Lucky Linderman (and the ants) have a unique voice that is funny and self-deprecating.  He is an inherently good boy who, even knowing that his actions will lead to further torture, he stands up for those who need it.  My heart went out to him as he suffered the most heinous of acts and watched as the adults around him fail to notice or to take action.  I also found myself getting very angry at the adults in this situation, particularly the apathetic teachers who turn a blind eye to what they must know is happening.  The other characters are all damaged in some way, Lucky's parents and aunt and uncle all escape the problems of their marriages with their own obsessions.  Pre-occupied as they are, they seem incapable of facing the true pain that Lucky is going through.

I found it particularly interesting to read Everybody Sees the Ants at a time when I had just finished Thirteen Reasons Why.  It created an interesting juxtaposition between bullying against girls and bullying against boys.  Thirteen Reasons Why featured rumor and name calling, while Everybody Sees the Ants featured violence and cruelty that was often difficult to read.  It also a thought-provoking connection between bullying and torture.  In the end, Lucky gains a sense of confidence and stands up to his bully.  It all wraps up a little too cleanly for my taste and I think that resolution is slightly unrealistic.  It did take down my enjoyment a notch. 

Many of the other reviews have mentioned that this book wasn't quite as powerful as King's other novel Please Ignore Vera Dietz, so I am adding that to my TBR pile as well. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

15 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing, talk of Sex
Violence: Bullying, Suicide
Inappropriate Language: Shit, Slut, Pussy, Fuck, Fag
Substance Use/Abuse: Smoking, Pill Use


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