WE ARE THE ANTS
BY SHAUN DAVID HUTCHINSON
From the author of The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley comes a brand-new novel about a teenage boy who must decide whether or not the world is worth saving.
Henry Denton has spent years being periodically abducted by aliens. Then the aliens give him an ultimatum: The world will end in 144 days, and all Henry has to do to stop it is push a big red button.
Only he isn’t sure he wants to.
After all, life hasn’t been great for Henry. His mom is a struggling waitress held together by a thin layer of cigarette smoke. His brother is a jobless dropout who just knocked someone up. His grandmother is slowly losing herself to Alzheimer’s. And Henry is still dealing with the grief of his boyfriend’s suicide last year.
Wiping the slate clean sounds like a pretty good choice to him.
But Henry is a scientist first, and facing the question thoroughly and logically, he begins to look for pros and cons: in the bully who is his perpetual one-night stand, in the best friend who betrayed him, in the brilliant and mysterious boy who walked into the wrong class. Weighing the pain and the joy that surrounds him, Henry is left with the ultimate choice: push the button and save the planet and everyone on it…or let the world—and his pain—be destroyed forever.
Confession time: I wasn’t really going to write a review for this because I was too entangled in the book to be ok with reliving the book. It was a hard book for me to read and even though I have come to love it, it will be a while before I pick it up because there are certain themes that really trigger me frankly.
I had seen this book almost everywhere once I started to look for books on the blogging sphere or even on bookstagram or BookTube. People usually had only good things to say about it and I admit that I was slowly lured in because of the praise it was receiving on multiple platforms.
I wasn’t too sold on the premise of the book if I am being honest. A YA contemporary with an alien abduction twist wasn’t something that was ever on my list. However I did pick it up and I did start to read it. The pace seemed a bit slow initially and while there were moments of hilarity and sharp wit mingled in there, the overall theme seemed sad and almost…defeatist. That could be me being depressed, really. I have a tendency to see and perhaps actively embrace the negative and depressing things.
Even when I hate Marcus, I miss him when we aren’t together. He doesn’t fill the yawning left by Jesse, but sometimes he makes it hurt slightly less.
Anyway, Henry Denton or Space Boy has been abducted by aliens from a very young age, that is established within a few pages of the book and the book even starts while the abduction is taking place. The aliens, ‘Sluggers’ as Henry calls them, offer him a choice to save the earth by pressing a button. The world, they tell him, will end on a certain date in near future. Now, the decision to save the earth remains in Henry’s court and it could have been a simple enough decision. It is so normal and obvious to think that ‘Of course, Henry would want to save the world, there’s no rocket science involved.’
When Diego kissed me, I forgot about ever kiss that came before. His kisses were impatient but cautious. They teetered on the edge of losing control, and I imagined him painting with the same kind of frenzy- stripped to the waist and covered in smears of more colours than the human eye was capable of detecting.
But the reality of Henry’s life is far more complex and heart-wrenching than that.
Henry’s father walked out on him and his family, that incident affected everyone in the family differently. His brother isn’t at his best, his mother is barely scraping by enough money to feed the mouths in the family and his grandmother is losing memory more and more everyday. Oh, there was also the suicide of his boyfriend, then there’s the bullying at school. It’s a lot to work with and with a life like this, would Henry really choose to save the world? When the world he lives in doesn’t really seem worth living in?
The journey that Henry goes through is such an important one that the question of whether he pressed the button or not starts to become slightly less important. The ending did satisfy me because it left such a huge room for hope because despite or maybe because of the grim and frankly too depressing tone of the book, there’s still hope in the book. That made me carry on even while I tried desperately not to cry.
“I am really proud of you, Mom.” In fact, I’d never been more proud.
Zooey said, “What made you decide to go for it?”
Mom smiled at me. “Someone gave me a mirror.”
The writing in the book really made me want to continue reading even when I felt heavy and drained at the same time. There are so many things that I found hard to read, not because I found them less than ideal but because it was sometimes too much for my tender heart. While I have not gone through what Henry went through in the book, I could feel the past incidents in my life creeping back in.
“You like bacon, right?” Audrey asked.
“So, when you’re offered bacon for breakfast, do you refuse because you’re worried about what’s going to happen when it’s gone?”
“No!” Audrey smacked me in the chest. “You eat that bacon and you love it because it’s delicious. You don’t fret over whether you’ll ever have bacon again. You just eat the bacon.” Audrey stood in front of me and held my face between her hands. Her expression was so solemn that it was difficult not to laugh. “Eat the bacon, Henry.”
A roar erupted from Charlie and his friends. Audrey and I turned in time to watch a plume of fire and sparks shoot into the air and explode like a supernova. Diego winked at me from across the lawn.
“I am assuming Diego is the bacon in that analogy.”
“I need another drink.”
I think I really loved this book because it is an important book to read in general, the way teenagers go through life, the way our lives are affected because of certain incidents. Hutchinson’s writing is almost addictive, it would not let me stop and perhaps because of that, I was left drained by the end of it. I didn’t read anything for almost a day after this book.
I feel as if I am not doing this book any justice by telling you guys how difficult it was for me to read and how I couldn’t really put it down but I think we all need to read books like that in life, don’t you think?
The only reason I didn’t give it five stars was because of the lack of trigger/ content warnings. There is a serious list of triggers, you name it, it’s probably there. Depression, suicide, death, bullying, mental health in general, rape, pregnancy, unhealthy relationships and I am pretty sure many, many more. This book did not deal in tenderness, there was such a raw emotive narration throughout the book that even as I write it, my throat feels closed up.
So, with that shining review, I do hope you give this book a chance because boy, this one packs a punch in every direction. This might not be an easy read but it is an important read, I think. It has a touch of scifi with contemporary and the sheer force of emotions could power a small country. So, yeah, please, if you haven’t already, do read it.
We remember the past, live in the present, and write the future.