Book Review – We Are the Ants – Shaun David Hutchinson
Book: We Are the Ants
Author: Shaun David Hutchinson
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Year of Release: 2016
Read 455-page hardcover edition in December 2017.
Henry Denton is going through a lot. He is getting bullied relentlessly at his high school, he is trying to come to terms with his boyfriend committing suicide last year, he has lost his best friend as a result of that, his mother is chain-smoking her way through her own issues, his dad left the family and never returned – and to top that all off, he is being kidnapped by aliens on a regular basis.
The aliens have given Henry time to push a red button on their spaceship, and prevent the destruction of the earth. However, Henry is taking his time. Does he really want the earth to go on, when everything is so messed up for everyone?
When Henry meets a new student at school, Diego Vega, he grows fascinated with this mysterious student with a hidden past. As their friendship grows, and as other relationships with Henry’s family changes, he starts to question whether he should push that button, or not.
This YA novel by Shaun David Hutchinson was, in one word, outstanding. This was a fantastic treat to end 2016 by reading this novel.
Hutchinson has completely succeeded in writing a novel with real, nuanced, three-dimensional characters, and a plot that is funny and enjoyable yet also full of intense and difficult issues.
Speaking of the characters first, Hutchinson has done a great job creating a cast of characters where none are under-developed or just inserted for a convenient scene. Even minor characters such as Henry’s family members are well fleshed out and have interesting stories to tell. Charlie, Henry’s older brother, is an immature bully in many ways, but also a thoughtful guy able to develop as his life circumstances change through the course of the novel. The interplay between Henry and his friend Audrey is interesting and develops as we learn about the effect Jesse’s suicide had on both of them.
One also has to comment on the exceptional creation and development of Diego in the novel. This character is intriguing right from his opening line of the novel, and Hutchinson does a fabulous job of creating a complex mystery in the character of Diego. Seeing Diego and Henry’s relationship develop, and ebb and flow through difficult times, makes for a page turner of a novel, as the reader wants to know what happens next with these two.
On the plot itself, as stated above, the novel truly is a page turner. Hutchinson’s creation of believable characters, each with their own issues and shades of grey, makes for a strong YA novel. The plot has elements of very light science and science fiction throughout, but not enough to put anyone off. In other words, if you aren’t a fan of hard science fiction, that’s okay, this book can still work for you.
Hutchinson does a great job exploring all kinds of relationships within the story, and he also weaves in interesting small chapters throughout, imagining how the world may end if Henry does not push the alien’s button on time. These interspersed sections are interesting and bring us out of the narrative for a moment, before we are right back in the various plots that are occurring, and that we have a vested interest in as readers, because Hutchinson has made us care about so many of these characters.
There are serious topics covered in this novel, including suicide, depression, bullying, homophobia, and others. Hutchinson brings these up with strength and yet also writes with humour and brings up joy as well. Through all the hardship that some of the characters face, there is something to look for as well, in the light.
Overall, this is a fantastic page turner, with believable and likeable characters. This is definitely worth the read.
Overall: 5 stars out of 5 stars