Google+ Reading Teen: Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King

Monday, December 5, 2011

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (October 3, 2011)
Language: English
Buy the Book:  Amazon
Lucky Linderman didn't ask for his life. He didn't ask his grandfather not to come home from the Vietnam War. He didn't ask for a father who never got over it. He didn't ask for a mother who keeps pretending their dysfunctional family is fine. And he didn't ask to be the target of Nader McMillan's relentless bullying, which has finally gone too far.

But Lucky has a secret--one that helps him wade through the daily mundane torture of his life. In his dreams, Lucky escapes to the war-ridden jungles of Laos--the prison his grandfather couldn't escape--where Lucky can be a real man, an adventurer, and a hero. It's dangerous and wild, and it's a place where his life just might be worth living. But how long can Lucky keep hiding in his dreams before reality forces its way inside?

Review:

I wasn't sure what to think about "Everybody Sees the Ants" when I first started reading it. It was kind of a strange story and it took me a while to figure out what was happening. Maybe I just wasn't paying close enough attention. By the time I finished the book, I thought it was a great story (if you can read around all the language) as well as a very important topic.

Lucky Linderman is a short, scrawny 15 year old sophomore in high school. He is an only child who is called a "mama's boy" by some of his peers. Lucky refers to his dad as a turtle because he is physically and emotionally distant from his family. He is a man who is afraid to face life and because of this he is unable to be of any help to his son and wife. Lucky's mom has called herself a squid because she deals with life by swimming over 200 laps a day. Both love Lucky but feel inadequate to help him.

By the time Lucky was in the 2nd grade, he was the target of bullying by Nader McMillan, a classmate. Anytime Lucky happened to encounter Nader, he ran the risk of having some sort of abuse inflicted on him. Although Lucky informed his parents and others in authority, there were never any consequences that were strong enough to stop Nader. When Lucky "told on him", Nader might get in trouble but would take it out on Lucky the next time he saw him. Lucky wasn't the only target of Nader. Girls and other smaller, weaker kids were also abused.

One of the ways that Lucky dealt with the abuse he faced was by living through dreams. His father's father was a POW/MIA who never came home from VietNam. On her deathbed, Lucky's grandma told him that he needed to rescue his granddad because Lucky needed a dad. Lucky internalized this as his mission in life and through his dreams he lived this out. He spent his nights creeping through the jungle in an attempt to rescue his granddad. The conversations that the two of them shared in these dreams helped Lucky to face up to the real dangers he faced in real life.

One day Nader smashed Lucky's face into the hot cement of the swimming pool causing a deep gash in his cheek. While Lucky's face is on the ground he notices the ants in front of him. The ants talk to Lucky and react to whatever is happening to him. His dead granddad helps him to realize that anyone who has been victimized by anything in life "sees the ants". Following this incident of abuse, when Lucky's dad again refuses to intervene on his son's behalf, Lucky's mom packs the two of them up and goes to visit her brother and sister-in-law in Arizona. During this visit, Lucky makes great strides in growing up. He sees that his family isn't the only one that is dysfunctional but also that there is a possibility of being a "normal" family. Lucky has interaction with a young woman who helps him to see himself as a worthwhile human being who can stand up for himself. The results of this trip become clear when Lucky and his mom return home and he must face his father and Nader again.

This is a story about a serious topic and has a strong message. It is totally unacceptable for young people to be bullied and feel that no one has their back. At the end of the book I felt very proud of how far Lucky had come in his life. He was able to understand that he was stronger emotionally than his father and had the ability to face the demons in his life. I would recommend this book to older teens (because of the language) and would also hope that reading it would open up avenues of conversation within families.
Content:
Profanity: Heavy
Sexual Content: Heavy
Violence: Heavy
Other Notables: Smoking 
For more information, check out Everyone Sees the Ants on Parental Book Reviews.

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