Everything in Henry's life pretty much sucks. First he has been abducted by aliens enough times that others have caught on and they taunt him at school by calling him space boy. Secondly, his father abandons Henry and his family within weeks of the first abduction leaving a dad-sized hole in his life. Next, his boyfriend Jesse committed suicide and Henry wonders if it was his fault. His brother is a big bully, his mom is harried, his grandmother is losing her memory, and the most popular kids at school harass and bully Henry almost endlessly. Is it any wonder that he is depressed and his grades are slipping, too? Maybe it would be best if there was a mankind re-do, Henry thinks.
Then he meets Diego, a new boy from Colorado, and Henry finds in him a kindred spirit and a new friend, maybe even a boyfriend. And he invites his friend Audrey back into his life. Perhaps he can forgive himself, or at least peace with his past and move forward, even wanting to save the planet afterall. But as in most things in life, situations arise which complicate his feelings, and the aliens haven't dragged him away giving him an opportunity to hit the button. Finally Henry acknowledges that he needs help, that he can't cope with all his problems on his own.
Finally, a YA book I couldn't put down. I've been slogging along reading YA after YA book thinking to myself, "OK, that was good, but not special." We Are the Ants has that special something extra that notches the book up a level. Perhaps the difference is how thoughtfully it explores a plethora of topics: abuse, abandonment, suicide, bullying, depression, love, friendship, and family dysfunction and it did it all without being preachy. Perhaps it was because the three principal characters, Henry, Diego, and Audrey readers can relate to and are likable. All the characters, save some of the bullies, show growth and depth. The ending was satisfying even though it was a bit ambiguous.
The book should come with a warning, however, because some of the scenes, both sexual and abusive, were very graphic. This is not a coming-of-age book for young teens or preteens. There was also a lot of very strong, offensive language. Teens often tell me they aren't bothered by the same language issues that make me cringe, but I wanted to warn you anyway.
My rating for the book is a 5 out of 5 and I will be recommending we include this book as a Printz-worthy book. In my personal rankings I place this one either tied with The Passion of Dolssa or just one tiny step behind, making them my #1 and #2 favorite YA books of the year so far.
Source: I checked out the book from the GKHS library and then found the audiobook on Overdrive which I checked out from the public library.
Challenge: Big Book Summer Challenge at 452 pages.
2017 Printz Award Contenders
22 / 35 books. 63% done!