I was on a reading roll this week- finishing 3 books. I just could not put ‘We Are The Ants’ down. Shaun David Hutchinson’s writing is beautiful and this story touched me in so many ways and is perhaps one of my favourite books i have read this year.
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.
Hutchinson’s writing is beautiful and he knows how to create a seamless story with relatable characters, heartbreaking dialogue and a flawless ending.
It is a story that touches on so many topics- self image, mental health, friendship, bullying, sexuality, family and mortality.
We see and experience the story through the eyes of Henry- a sixteen year old boy who struggles with self image, depression and grief, only amplified by the suicide of his boyfriend Jesse around 12 months previously. An outsider at school, he gets bullied and ostracised, branded with the nickname ‘Space Boy’ as rumours spread that he is abducted by aliens. Henry recounts during the book that he has been abducted multiple times since childhood, the first time only days before his father left his mother, leading him to believe he is the cause for his father’s absence.
The book follows Henry and his relationship with the new kid at School Diego, and enigma and a mystery who throughout the book pushed Henry to see the best in himself and the world. Diego who wears Hawaiian shirts and believes he can be who ever he wants to be- something that Henry feels he does not have the luxury of.
Henry and his relationship with the Aliens, or ‘Sluggers’ as he calls them is never resolved. They may not even exist- but that is of little concern in the overall scope of the book, whether they are real or not. They are there to highlight the issue of mortality and the reasons for life and living on earth. By presenting Henry with the button and the chance to press it and save the Earth and the lives of billions on Earth it forced Henry to look inside and question his choices for living- to come to terms with the loss of Jesse, his relationship with his brother Charlie and his mother and the new relationship with Diego.
My favourite quote appears within the first few pages and set the tone for the rest of the book.
Your entire sense of self-worth is predicated upon your belief that you matter, that you matter to the universe.
But you don’t.
Because we are the ants.
Everyone can relate with something in this book-whether it is mental illness, death, mortality, bullying or self image. I whole heartedly recommend this book to everyone.