Saturday, January 18, 2014

[Review] Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King

Click on cover for Goodreads.
Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 03/10/2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 279
Source: Gift
Genre: YA (14+) - Realistic

Violence | Sexual ContentProfanity


Book Tunes
Linkin Park - Numb

My Rating: 
Unique and engaging!

My thoughts

Everybody Sees the Ants is written by A.S. King which automatically means that I had to own a copy (with the intention to one day read it). Of all of her novels to date this was probably the one that instilled the most doubt in me, as in, I wasn't sure if this would be my kind of book. Male protagonist? Strange POW/MIA-themed lucid dreams? "Everybody Sees the Ants"? But I need not have worried; as far as I'm concerned A.S. King can do no wrong.
Lucky Linderman has a problem and his name is Nader McMillan. He just won’t leave him alone, and hasn’t since he was seven. That’s when the bullying started. But when Nader goes a little bit too far at the local swimming pool, it’s time to get away. Lucky physically escapes Nader by going to Arizona with his mum for two weeks, but he also mentally escapes his parents in his dreams where he rescues his MIA grandfather. And then there are the ants in his mind, they understand him, they keep him company… Everybody Sees the Ants is a brilliant coming-of-age following a teenage boy who needs to discover who he is, face his demons and make sense of this messed up life of his.

I think everyone can relate to Lucky in some way, feeling like a failure or powerless/weak or not good enough or too plain/boring… and so on. His parents, the squid (mum) and the turtle (dad), are constantly fighting – fighting because the turtle’s pa never made it back from the war so he never had a father figure, fighting because the turtle would rather hide in his shell than take action, fighting because Lucky Linderman’s bully took things a bit too far this time… and fighting because Lucky asked a stupid question: If you were going to commit suicide, what method would you choose?

I really liked the voice of Lucky. A.S. King is able to lock into her characters extremely well and give them a distinctive and true voice. His voice is honest and blunt, consistent and engaging. Every sentence seems to hold weight to it. The dialogue is top-notch. When it comes to uniqueness and engaging storytelling and writing, A.S. King is unparalleled in YA.

A.S. King explores the idea that everyone is their own prisoner, and that to become free one must take action into their own hands… create their own destiny. Lucky struggles for the majority of the book so when he does eventually turn things around I felt an immense satisfaction. I’ve favoured contemporary realistic fiction right from the beginning when I started reading, but really what I favour is captivating, engaging characters that grow, shift, change, develop and learn as the story progresses. Lucky is an amazing character – similar to Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower (only much less weepy) – who begged for my empathy. I could understand him. I could love him. I was on his side.

Everybody Sees the Ants sends a very powerful and strong message of the resonant effects that bullying can have on one person. But it is not just the child who suffers – Lucky’s parents have been at war with this ever since he was seven when the bullying began. The squid (mum) wants the turtle (dad) to speak to McMillan’s parents, or just do something, but the turtle thinks the best way to end it is to ignore it. When Lucky comes home with an Ohio-shaped scab on his face, enough is enough.

This book is amazing. I think, to me, it brought me all of the things I found lacking in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The themes of bullying, belonging, familial tension, identity, growing up... I like that while it is grounded in reality there are fantastical elements to it, though they might be construed as simply existing only in Lucky's mind. I liked the deep complexity of Lucky’s (and the Lindermans’) predicament and how he overcomes it all. I liked the characters – which also includes a seventeen-year-old ninja-hair model (I loved her story arc!), a pill-popping aunt, a workaholic uncle – and I found that A.S. King explored their individual complexities in a profound and meaningful way.

Bottom line, read this book. Read anything by A.S. King. Seriously, she’s an author not to be missed. I really can’t wait to read Ask the Passengers – it definitely sounds like my kind of read.

Quotes

First line: All I did was ask a stupid question.
Six months ago I was assigned the standard second-semester freshman social studies project at Freddy High: Create a survey, evaluate data, graph data, express conclusion in a two-hundred-word paper. This was an easy A. I thought up my question and printed out 120 copies.
The question was: If you were going to commit suicide, what method would you choose?


Favourite quotes:

"I find myself thinking that it would be nice to be able to fix my life the way I'm fixing the patio. I wonder, is there enough terracotta-colored cement to fill the hole where my father should be? Or where my mother's spine should be? Or where my guts should be? (129)

"...I am squished into a car with five girls. Three of them have crew cuts, so I thought they were guys at first, which I should keep to myself. Ginny is next to me, and I can feel the heat of her leg through my combat shorts. This is not the moment to think about her naked. And yet, I do.
     So I am squished into a car with five girls--three of whom have crew cuts--and now I have a boner. The ants say: Jesus, Lucky Linderman. Can't you control that thing? (136
)


"'That's what your first time is like. It's a crazy mix of fear and excitement and white noise and--uh--lust, I guess. It's not romantic.' (204)

And p. 219. All of it.

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I purchased this book with my own money. All opinions written here are my own.



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