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Mental Illness

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We Are the Ants

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
on January 19th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, GLBT, Science Fiction
Pages: 455

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Reaction Upon Reading: So the whole book was a metaphor for depression?


“Dreams are hopeful because they exist as pure possibility. Unlike memories, which are fossils, long dead and buried deep.”


Synopsis:

There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.

Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.

What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.


“Depression isn’t a war you win. It’s a battle you fight every day. You never stop, never get to rest.”


I went into this book with zero expectations. I hadn’t read the synopsis, all I had seen was that there were a lot of people putting up photos on their bookstagram accounts saying that they loved it.

The story begins with Henry discussing all the absurdities of life. Henry believes the absurdities in his life are: Grade point averages, homework, boyfriends and hot school lunches. He believes these are absurdities because the aliens have given him a choice. Henry can either save the world (with a press of a button) or let it perish. This is not a deicison Henry takes lightly.

He is sleeping with Marcus the schools jock jerk. to get over his ex Jesse. Jesse is his ex-boyfriend that committed suicide and left no note or reason for Henry or Audery – his two best friends. Henry wants, needs and crave answers…but he is continually being abducted by aliens for days on end.


“I saw the world from the stars’ point of view, and it looked unbearably lonely.”


Likes:

  • I love reading books about social issues especially when main characters are dealing with a mental illness
    • This is something that hits close to home for me, and when it is done right…it is very special. 
  • The book is rather philosophical in the beginning – Henry discusses the issue of buying material items and confirming to societies image of beautiful – when it doesn’t even matter in the grand scheme of the cosmos.
  • The book has a humor that you don’t need to laugh at, but draws your attention to what is funny.
    • Alien and men both have useless nipples
  • The book has some great themes: Depression, loss, grief, forgiveness, acceptance, self worth, bullying and teen angst
  • This book makes you think and ponder all the pointless things we do and the material items we posses that in ten years time may no longer have any value
    • “Makes you think how quickly it can all end. An asteroid heading for earth could cause cataclysmic results.”
  • Audrey
    • There was so much more to her than you originally realized, I felt more for Audrey’s pain and struggles more than I did Henry’s.
  • Lots of pop culture references – not resurrecting the TV show firefly, North Korea starting world war 3 of the cancellation of a TV show and Dennis Rodman and his relations with North Korea

Dislikes:

  • Marcus
    • There is literally nothing to like about this character
    • Even when he tries to redeem himself he fails 
  • Some scenes were hard to read – which I know makes them that much more powerful…but I just don’t like it when I am angry enough to rip the book in half.
  • I felt like some of the themes of the book started off well but weren’t developed enough – teen pregnancy, dementia and divorce – I needed more development and complexity to care about these issues.
  • The ending

“That’s the problem with memories: you can visit them, but you can’t live in them.”


Reactions, Questions and Ramblings:

  • Love the first chapter and how philosophical it was and then bam! alien abduction. Wasn’t expecting that!
  • Henry is getting more and more layers. Arguing parents, Insinuates that his abduction caused his father to leave, he isn’t comfortable being naked, he doesn’t see the point in the little things (absurdities of life).
  • The setting is Calypso – all I can think of is a tropical paradise like the ice block!
  • 144 days till the earth explodes – January 29th 2016 is d-day – I wonder what I was doing on this day? I am pretty sure I was camping at the beach. Not a bad place for it all to end.
  • What is the red button a metaphor for?
  • Henry and Marcus – what an odd pairing?! He picks on him in front of their peers. Does Henry have no self esteem? Who would stand for this?
  • Marcus is treating Henry like his dirty little secret – I hate Marcus!
  • When Henry asks people if they could save the world…would they? What answer is he expecting. The option is to live or die. Of course people will pick live, it’s a no brainer…isn’t it?
  • Harry Potter Wizarding world in Florida is very high on my bucket list to visit so when they mentioned bombing it so no one could go, I wasn’t happy about this!!
  • Marcus is a douche and Diego is a mystery – I hope Diego is also gay.
  • Is this showing the different ways the world can end? On the same day as we get closer to the time?
    Is this book a giant metaphor? I liked the first 25% of this book and now I am bored. 
  • The most unusual ending of the world saga had to be the fixers. Fixing the world of disease and then a malfunctioning from a taser, mutating and turning the population to grey goo within 3 days. This is an entertaining end.
  • Things begin to change when Diego shares about why he spent time in juvi, Henry’s mom gets a job as sous chef, Audrey and Henry are friend again and Adrian gets what’s coming to him

“I could write my name across the sky, and it would be in invisible ink.”


Overall Thoughts:

What did I just read?

I am not an open ended reading kind of girl.

I have been trying to piece my opinion together for the last few days and to be honest, but generally feelings are still sitting on the borderline of good. I wanted to so badly to love this book, it started so well and the premise is very creative. But in the end I was left with too many questions and not enough answers.

I can assume the entire book was a metaphor for depression and that the alien aspect was his subconscious during those dark times. But am I actually right?!? Or are the aliens actually a thing and he saved the world. I hate when author’s assume I am intelligent and capable of drawing these conclusions. I have read far too many plot twist novels to trust anything anymore.

I think I am mostly disappointed with the ending because I still feel there was so much that was unresolved, most importantly being Henry and his issues with his self worth. He loathes himself the entire book and I didn’t get any feelings that that had changed.

I wanted this book to be one that left me with all the feels, but it fell short. By the end I wouldn’t have minded if he just let the world perish.


“We may not get to choose how we die, but we can chose how we live. The universe may forget us, but it doesn’t matter. Because we are the ants, and we’ll keep marching on.”

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What did you think of this book?

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Rating Report
Plot
three-stars
Characters
three-half-stars
Writing
four-stars
Pacing
three-stars
Cover
three-stars
Overall: three-stars