This review has taken me a while to write because I’ve been at a loss for words to even tell you how amazing this book is. It’s a rare 5-star for me, and I already wanted to start reading it again the second I finished the last chapter. It really is an amazing novel, and I think that anyone who has ever questioned who they are or what they are looking for is in need of this beautifully written, inspiring story.
Not having read anything by Shaun David Hutchinson prior to reading We Are the Ants, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After I finished and closed the book, I realized that I would have been correct to expect a fantastic YA novel that not only plays with your emotions throughout its entirety, but also gives you a glimpse into the life of a teenage boy trying to find some good in the human race, even when he’s having a difficult time finding a reason why he should even continue looking.
Henry has been abducted by aliens multiple times. No one believes him, but when he comes home randomly after missing for a few days (also usually in his underwear), people start to talk. His mother and brother think he’s a little troubled. The kids at school find him…strange (they call him Space Boy). Needless to say, he feels rather lonely. His boyfriend Jesse committed suicide, not leaving behind a note or any definite reasons why he would take such drastic measures, leaving behind an absolutely heartbroken Henry. Since Jesse was Henry’s first love and entire world, he doesn’t know what to do with himself, especially since he has no idea why Jesse would leave him behind. Audrey, the best friend of both Henry and Jesse, is also heartbroken at their loss, and she disappears for a while after, leaving Henry completely alone. This causes a strain on Audrey’s and Henry’s relationship, with Henry not feeling like he can trust Audrey to be there and be his friend now. However, Audrey doesn’t hesitate to stick up for Henry when he is provoked by classmates, and she also knows some of Jesse’s secrets, and she is dealing with her own grief from losing him.
Since Henry feels so alone, he starts spending time with popular jock Marcus, who is nothing but mean to Henry when he is in front of his friends (giving him the nickname Space Boy and insulting him as often as possible), and yet being sweet to Henry when they are alone – spending time hooking up and having serious conversations. Because Henry feels so alone, he deals with the emotional abuse Marcus dishes out – just for those moments where he can feel appreciated and needed, even if it’s in secret.
During all of this, Henry is abducted by aliens again, and this time, he is faced with a decision. They show him a big red button, and let him know that unless he pushes the button, the world will be destroyed on January 29th, 2016 – giving him a limited number of days (144 to be exact) to decide if the human race is worth saving.
While Henry is trying to make that decision (and of course, being abducted multiple times and having to trek across town in his boxers in the process), a new student comes to the school – Diego. At first, Henry isn’t quite sure what to make of Diego – he is different and isn’t very open with his past. However, Diego seems to believe Henry about the alien abductions, and eventually the two form an interesting relationship. Diego tries his hardest to help Henry through the grief he feels from the loss of Jesse, the alien abductions, and the horrible, cruel treatment of Marcus. He wants him to see the good in the world so that he will press the button.
I love everything about this book (well, except Marcus, I hated Marcus). I loved how carefully crafted the story was. I loved how well rounded and thought out the characters were. This book made me feel like I was drawn into a young adult version of the X-Files! The science fiction aspect was played up perfectly without overdoing it, the way that some novels have done. The relationship between Jesse and Henry was beautiful (told in flashbacks, but still, you can put together the amazing thing they had together), and it was nothing short of heartbreaking to see Henry struggle to recover after the boy he was in love with committed suicide, without leaving any clues for Henry as to why he did it. The whole issue with Marcus was painful and make me sick, because what they do to Henry in the book is terrible. At the same time, you feel a bit bad for Marcus, because he clearly cares about Henry and is worried about others finding out who he is and who he’s in love with.
Henry’s character is so well done. He has a great sense of humor, and as the narrator of the book, it’s bound to bring you a few laughs. His personality is really interesting and you’ll go through all of his heartbreak, losses, and happy times along with him. And you will spend the entire book asking the same question over and over again…will he push the button and save the world?
This book tackles so many major issues that it’s pretty difficult to label it exactly. There is so much going on throughout the story, and there were so many emotions that you would be laughing during one chapter and crying at the start of the next. If you like a book that forces you to think, you need to read this one.
If you pick up one book in 2016, let We Are the Ants be it. You will not be disappointed!
Note: I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.