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Book Review – Everybody Sees the Ants

Why are the adults in my life so determined to bring me down when I’m feeling good?

Ain’t that the million dollar question right there. Why does anybody feel the need to bring others down? And why is there an elevated desire to rain on someone’s parade only when they’re happy?

Because the world is full of hurt, anguish, despondency, envy, and jealousy. Because we’ve forgotten how to express ourselves, so we take it out on those who have a sense of self-awareness, enough to know life is good and well, life moves and you have the heaviest hand in the game when it comes to deciding how fast or slow.

Everybody Sees the Ants is a work of magical realism that covers multiple subjects from bullying to POW/MIA, the Vietnam War, and understanding sanity.

Our main character, Lucky Linderman, is a definite result of someone who understands all these subjects very very well, namely bullying, and what it means to become the victim, to forget the fight and throw your hands up in the air because you didn’t know you deserved anything better. 

Turns out, when someone you actually give a shit about turns on you, it’s even more powerful.

Own-voice novels hold a special place in my heart–because own-voice authors are people who have taken their struggles, and instead of allowing them to consume their entire persona, they’ve used them to create, to enlighten, to heal, and to move on. 

The writing in this book wasn’t anything spectacular, it was easy to read and follow, but it didn’t have a whole lot of pretty moments, which are typically what I look for in speculative works of magical realism. I like that magical element, where the author actually brings the writing to life. I didn’t feel it here, though I will say, for the scenes that played out in Lucky’s head–he travelled to the Vietnam jungle in his dreams to rescue his grandfather from a prison camp–I really felt like I was in the jungle, smelling the smells, hearing the noises, feeling the anxiety of something so immense and mysterious in the wee hours of the night. 

So, this entire book is sort of centered around Lucky, who’s father’s father has been MIA since before his father was born, and the tragedy of it sort of consumes Lucky’s family’s entire life. Until the book comes full-circle at the end, I had a rough time understanding the personal transformation he was going through, but when it reveals itself nearing the conclusion, I really wanted to applaud A.S. King for the way she portrayed not only the question constantly present when you don’t get closure on the supposed death of a loved one, but also the way she portrayed a relationship between a boy who doesn’t know his father because his father isn’t emotionally there and a man who doesn’t know his father because his father actually wasn’t there. 

When you start the book, the obvious misinterpretation is that it’s about bullying. But what we really start to see is that the bullying is present partly because Lucky doesn’t feel he deserves to be treated with respect as a learned symptom of a Homelife where his father is constantly ignoring him, and partly because his father doesn’t know how to encourage Lucky to stand up for himself, because he never learned how to be a father from his father. 

It’s as if they’d never known one single teenager their whole lives. 

And Lucky feels really misunderstood. Another big theme in this novel. He feels misunderstood because nobody’s taken the time to understand him. It becomes an exploration of life when you’re taken for granted in the place where you should feel free and open and appreciated–your home. 

Her confidence is lifelong and enormous, the way my lack of confidence is lifelong and enormous. I look at the other girls–they all have it. I am the only one who can’t laugh at the funny jokes about myself. I am the only one who can’t face the truth about myself. I am the only one pretending. 

Lucky does begin to step into self-awareness, and I was surprised to see the friendship he develops with Ginny, another main character, become the ultimate revival for his persona. Normally you see the action play out in the MC’s head, but in this person vs. self novel, there was a second person aiding in the fight against Lucky Linderman’s brain, and it wasn’t all that big of a fight either, it was just a small collection of moments shared between two people that urged Lucky into a place of greater self-respect. She became the ultimate voice of wisdom in an otherwise guidance-lacking story. 

His infatuation became fuel. His fuel became sanity. 

Right then I know I am hopelessly in love with Ginny Clemens. Not in a real-world sense but in the same way I could be in love with a move star.

There was some really good humor present here as well. Good chapter titles. Lucky had a definite knack for making fun of himself in a subtle way, even though he implicitly says he’s incapable of doing as much because he lacks the confidence to recover from a self-stab. But he had a humorous outlook on most everything, and he deeply mistrusted those that took him too seriously.

“I’d rather suck truck fumes than go through one more day of this place.”

Hasn’t everyone said something like that at least once?

The story lacked, for me, momentum. It lost me at parts, put me to sleep at others, but it never slowed down enough for me to fully forget about the book and move onto the next. 

Up close, I see the sparkling bits. I can see the tiny world ants see. Hills and valleys of concrete–crumbs from the snack bar, and the trail of water that leaks from the pipe under the water fountain between bathrooms. 

The one thing I loved, more so than anything else, was the idea that the ants could be anything for anyone as their significance was never outlined. 

The ants. Oh those ants. I see them too. 

32/38

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