Books that make me sad are the only books I want to read.
I don’t know what I expected from Shaun David Hutchinson’s We Are The Ants. I knew, the moment I read the summary, that this was a book that I was going to love, and I did, but it completely surprised me. I finished it a few days ago, and I have to admit that I’m rather speechless. I did not expect the sadness that seeped into its every page. I did not expect to have to stop reading because I felt too much pain in my chest.
I don’t want to scare you away. While this book is sad, it’s not heartbreaking. You won’t sob every other chapter, or threaten to throw the book away. It’s not melodramatic, not in the least. The book is real and its sadness is an effect of living, not a plot device.
It’s kind of funny to talk about how “real” this book feels when it’s about a boy who gets abducted by aliens.
Speaking of which, I want to talk about that. One of the most brilliant moves this book does is include the aliens. They might seem strange and needless to some, and I understand why. In a book about deep issues like suicide, grief, mental health, and blame, why include something like aliens? Doesn’t it just make the rest of the book less effective? But no, the aliens make everything become so much more. When you’re suffering a pain so deep and hard to deal with, isn’t the easiest thing to do is dissociate? To create an alternate universe in your head where you hold all the control over everything?
Isn’t part of living learning how to deal, no matter how unhealthy your coping may be?
So I love the aliens. I love the darkness of this book, and how no one seems to get what they really deserve. I love how unjust everything feels, and how much you just want everyone to be happy but it isn’t happening. And I love how when things finally start looking up, it all comes crashing down.
But you know what I love most? Hope.
The reason I love young adult fiction is because, above all else, these books have hope.
Hopeful, I think, is the perfect word to summarize We Are The Ants.
(after ‘sad,’ ‘artful,’ and ‘beautiful’ of course).
4.5 aliens out of 5.