05. November 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King, 279 pages, read by Courtney, on 10/29/2012

The first thing you need to know: this is not like most other coming-of-age stories. Lucky Linderman has been bullied by Nader McMillan ever since they were in elementary school. Nader is the worst sort of bully; the type that picks on anyone smaller and weaker, yet still manages to charm adults into thinking he’s a stand-up guy. Lucky is a genuine stand-up guy, but doesn’t really know it yet. He’s too scared to face his personal demons. His parents are both completely absorbed in their own lives, so Lucky is more or less on his own. Added to the mix is the long-standing family drama of having lost his paternal grandfather in Vietnam. Not “lost” as in “died”, but MIA. The spectre of the Linderman hangs heavy over Lucky, who was named for his grandfather. In Lucky’s dreams, he goes again and again into the jungle on rescue missions to free his grandfather from POW camps. In Lucky’s real life the bullying gets so bad, his mother decides it’s time for her and her son to take a trip to Arizona where she and Lucky will stay with Lucky’s aunt and uncle. There, Lucky is able, for the first time, to find a chance to be himself and remake his life on his own terms.
This is a really unusual book and I loved it for that. The juxtaposition of dream-time jungle prison escapades works so well against the backdrop of Lucky’s life. Other quirks here are the ants that only Lucky can see/hear who provide not only some comic relief, but also act as the little voice in Lucky’s head. He knows he shouldn’t see ants that provide running commentary on his life, but he’s willing to keep it to himself. I love the characters too. The friends and family in Lucky’s life are fully-realized and complex. A.S. King is also a master of pacing and each successive chapter reveals surprises that deepen the reader’s understanding as well as propelling the story along at a rapid pace. This will absolutely make my list of recommendations to the Gateway Committee. I think it has great potential for discussion and readers will very likely relate to Lucky in some way.

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