A.S. King’s Everybody Sees The Ants

Well, no: we don’t. Thankfully.

The protagonist in Everybody Sees The Ants is a boy, bullied by the Cool Dude About Town in his high school, whom the adults regard as merely self-confident but whom the vulnerable kids in school1 recognize as their waking nemesis. Nader is the sort of adolescent who, intentionally or subconsciously, coerces others to back him up, if only to NOT become his next victim themselves, and admitting you’ve been bullied can be hard for either gender, more so when you feel it’s unmanly to be so treated by someone else. The protagonist is depressed, but at fourteen is unable to explain why “Snap out of it.” is an impossibility, much less confident enough to even broach the subject to the adults around him. His parents are on the verge of estrangement from each other, and his father has no clue whatsoever how to relate to him. His grandfather served in the U.S. military during the “police action” in Vietnam and has been declared Missing in Action, Presumed Dead, against the will of Lucky’s grandmother, now dead of cancer. The grandmother served as Lucky’s caretaker when she was alive–she died when he was seven–and he misses her desperately still.

Lucky’s mother swims constantly, for hours each day. Lucky’s father works long hours at his restaurant, claiming business necessity but seeming only to avoid his wife and child. Lucky himself dreams nightly of his grandfather, missing in action decades before in the Vietnam War…or are they dreams? Lucky often wakes with some remnant of the dreams, whether a playing card or mud on his legs. The ants in question are (probably?) hallucinations, or at least their sardonic running commentary, which only Lucky can hear, on the events and human angst is.

The book, set in the summer between Lucky’s freshman and sophomore years in high school, shifts between “now” in the summer, flashbacks to the previous academic year combined with backstory on the relationship between Nader and Lucky, and Lucky’s own dreams in the SE Asian jungle with his grandfather who serves as the closest thing he has to a father. Things come to a head, both figurative and literal, with Nader grinding Lucky’s face into the cement of a pool surround hard enough to scour away a substantial abrasion on his face. His mother, fed up with her husband, takes off for her brother’s home in Arizona because (as Lucky suspects) it’s the only place where she can swim to her heart’s content. The aunt pops pills and thinks cooking means reheating frozen meals. The uncle lifts weights out in his ManCave in one half the garage and spends late nights “working at the office”. Neither understands The Teenage Boy Psyche, so despite meaning well, Lucky finds them worse than his father, instead spending as much time as he can with an older girl and two of her friends who are surreptitiously rehearsing The Vagina Monologues.

I haven’t read any of this author’s other books, nor much recent YA mainstream fiction, so I’m not entirely sure how Everybody Sees The Ants compares. On the whole, though, I can see it being an interesting book for boys; nothing chicklittish about this book, as long as they’re not squeamish about the occasional kiss and several scenes involving “the V word”.

1more than most kids care to admit, and more than most adults care to remember


One thought on “A.S. King’s Everybody Sees The Ants

  1. Pingback: Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King | Josephine's Readers Advisory

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