Everybody Sees the Ants, by A.S. King

Everybody Sees the AntsThis book had been sitting in my office for approximately forever, requested in a fit of “read ALL the A.S. King” and then ignored because I am terrible. But eventually I found myself without a million other things to read and I seized the opportunity to continue my magical King journey.

And I do mean magical — all of King’s books that I’ve read have a slightly supernatural feel to them, and this one is no exception. In this story, our protagonist, Lucky, dreams that he visits his POW grandfather and wakes up with items from his dreams littering his bed. Lucky also has some imaginary ant friends who wander around pointing out important things and saying things about other people, but who doesn’t? Hence the title, I guess.

But as usual, the magical part of the story isn’t really the focus; what we really have here is the story of a high school freshman who just wants to get through high school but is hounded on one side by school bullies and on the other by a school administration that cares more about Lucky’s poor taste than his daily struggles. Lucky’s parents aren’t any help as they’re busy ignoring the problems in their own relationship, and of course Lucky isn’t too proactive about talking to anyone either, figuring that the adults in his life should just understand what’s wrong without him having to actually tell him. But with time and a sweltering summer trip to Arizona to visit family, Lucky is able to see that he’s not the only person with personal and family problems and is able to see that he’s a pretty cool dude regardless.

I quite enjoyed this book, which so perfectly captures the awfulness of teenagerhood and also reminds the reader that everyone has problems that feel like the only problems that exist, and that solving those problems mostly involves facing them head on. I also enjoyed the POW storyline more than I thought I would at the start; the connections to Lucky’s life and story are strong and the resolution of Lucky’s quest to save his grandfather is as complex as it should be. There were a few simplistic bits, including a quasi-manic quasi-pixie definite-dream girl and some awkward fat shaming, but in a story narrated by a 14-year-old it’s a touch more allowable than usual.

Recommendation: For teens as well as adults who are safely past the traumas of teenagerhood.

Rating: 8/10

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