Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Everybody Sees the Ants, by A.S. King
I just finished this novel the other day, and I'm still basking in the afterglow. I'm a little ticked I got it on my Kindle, because while I love the convenience of just grabbing the e-book in an instant, I would love to own the hardcover. I wouldn't call this cover beautiful, or shiny, and I wouldn't squee over it, but I do think it's compelling, and incredibly apt.
On the surface, this may seem like a simple story about bullying, or dysfunction in the family, but it's really so much more. Lucky Linderman is a character you can fall for in an instant. His situation isn't much different from hundreds of real kids his age. My own teenage years we're just as awkward, and filled with fear, apathy, and confusion. But Lucky's outlook, his intelligence, and his wit, draw you into his story with a power not many books can wield.
His opinions, and his total lack of fear to tell the truth about them (at least to the reader) set this book apart from most other young adult novels, in the sense that it truly feels like it was written by the character, rather than the author.
After getting in trouble for doing a survey about suicide, Lucky tells us:
Three hours after my meeting with the principal, I was sitting in the guidance office. Six days later, I was in the conference room with my parents, surrounded by the school district’s “experts” who watched my every move and scribbled notes about my behavior. In the end they recommended family therapy, suggested medications and further professional testing for disorders like depression, ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome. Professional testing! For asking a dumb question about how you’d off yourself if you were going to off yourself.
It’s as if they’d never known one single teenager in their whole lives.
In that moment, I felt like I was right inside Lucky's mind, and I knew exactly how he felt, for I'd felt that way countless times in my own life.
From there the story gets much stranger, and I won't give the plot away, because it's full of lush surprises, but I will say that when a tale blends metaphor and possible fantasy (or not) with the harsh reality of life, it does everything I love about stories and storytelling.
King also gets points from me for quoting Robert Nesta Marley, and for dedicating the book to everyone who sees the ants, which, if we can admit it, is really all of us.
Aren't we all bleeding, a little?
EDIT: I completely forgot to mention where else you can find A.S. King. She has a blog, and a website, but there is also an amazing interview with her and Paolo Bacigalupi, if you scroll down from the Amazon page for Ants.