Catie's Reviews > Everybody Sees the Ants

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King
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really liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2011, ya, for-review
Recommended to Catie by: Crowinator

So much of growing up is just strung together moments of disillusionment, isn’t it? As a parent, I want to shelter my children from as much as possible, but as a former child, I have to say that I wish that I had learned certain things a bit sooner. For example, I think that if there were some sort of instruction manual issued at birth, item one, paragraph one would read:

1. On Parents

i. The adults in your life may think that they know everything, but in reality, they are just people. And the general rule with people is, we’re all messed up (yes, including you…it’s inevitable). No matter how much they care about you, they will make colossal mistakes.

Boy do I wish that I had gotten that manual!

In this affecting novel, A.S. King portrays one young boy’s coming to terms with the knowledge that I think most of us have memorably earned: that the adults who have cared for us are far from infallible and may in fact be more damaged than we are. It’s a scary discovery, but it can also be freeing. This book contains so much more than just that, though. Like her other novels, it is inventive and original.

Lucky carries so much painful knowledge on his shoulders. He knows that many of his classmates are suicidal, thanks to an unfortunate choice of social studies project which leads everyone to believe that he’s disturbed. He knows that Nader McMillan is going to get away with hurting him over and over again, because no one will make him stop. He knows that his mother would rather swim a million laps, and his father would rather cook a twelve course meal than listen to what he has to say. He knows that his grandfather, missing and presumed dead since the Vietnam War, is really still alive and barely surviving in a prison camp, because he has vivid dreams about him every night. He knows that he has a terrible responsibility to rescue him, and that the dreams are the only place where he feels in control. Oh and also, he knows that he’s probably going insane.

This is a very introspective, emotional novel with lots of imaginative metaphoric imagery. Lucky processes many of his difficulties through detailed dreams with his grandfather and elaborate visions of ants making running commentary on his life. The adults in his life would like to categorize him, medicate him, or just ignore him. They are insulated and blinded by their own neuroses, but Lucky has a substantial amount of perspective for one so young, and he sees things more clearly than they do, for all of his possible insanity. However, he feels authentically young and three dimensional. His growth is believable, and it is inspiring to see him deal with everything on his own terms.

A large portion of this book takes place near Phoenix, AZ, where I lived for over seven years. I really have to commend the author on her descriptions of the weather, the suburbs, and the people of Arizona. It was like being right back there!

My only minor beef with this book is the exact same issue that I had with Please Ignore Vera Dietz: the ending is just a shade too neat and happy for me to really buy into it. But, I still really enjoyed this book, and I think that fans of A.S. King, as well as those reading her work for the first time, will be moved by this story.

Perfect Musical Pairing

Ben Folds – Still Fighting It

This rarely happens, but this book actually gave me new perspective on this song. The lyrics are written as a message from a father to a son. He remembers holding him for the first time, and how much that changed his life. He thinks about everything that his son will see and learn, and how hard it will be. He apologizes that his son has turned out to be so much like him. “Everybody knows, it hurts to grow up.” After reading this book, the line, “we’re still fighting it” makes me think about how much it hurts to be an adult, too. The challenges don’t magically end when you turn 18. We’re all still fighting it.

Thanks so very much to a wonderful rock star librarian for letting me borrow this book!
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Reading Progress

May 29, 2011 – Shelved
July 22, 2011 – Started Reading
July 22, 2011 – Shelved as: read-in-2011
July 22, 2011 – Shelved as: ya
July 23, 2011 – Finished Reading
December 4, 2011 – Shelved as: for-review

Comments Showing 1-12 of 12 (12 new)

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Tatiana Already got it? I guess, it will reach me soon too;D

Catie Yeah! I will start reading right away (tonight) so that I can send it off ASAP. PM me with your info when you get a chance. :)

Crowinator Dude, that was fast!

Catie I have a problem. :/

Plus, these YA's are just so easy to inhale.

Oh, and was excellent :)

Crowinator Nah, it's not a problem; it's more like a superpower. Glad you liked it, too.

Cassi aka Snow White Haggard YAY! Mainly because I loved Vera so much.

message 7: by Jo (new) - added it

Jo Phew... I'm so glad you liked this one.
Although, I think I'm going to have a break before I go back to Ms. King...

Catie Did you finish 100 Dogs yet?

message 9: by Jo (new) - added it

Jo Yes.
I'm going to write my review soon but I just can't go back to it without getting sad that Vera wasn't a badass pirate.

Catie Haha, yeah. I wish that I could give that book a "do-over" button. Actually, that book seems much better in retrospect. I think that the idea of it is eclipsing everything else. Also, it probably helps that I've just read one of hers and loved it.

Crowinator Excellent review, and I agree with you about the ending. I also wished it was a little more ambiguous (view spoiler). Also, excellent song choice, again. I will have to go listen to it again now that I've read this.

Catie (view spoiler)

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