When Henry Denton is abducted by aliens, he is given the opportunity to prevent the destruction of the earth by pressing a button. Unfortunately, Henry’s worldview is clouded by recent tragedies in his life: his father leaving his family, his grandmother’s Alzheimer’s, and his boyfriend’s suicide. During the 144 days he has left to make a decision, Henry embarks on deep self-reflection and analysis of the world around him as his friends and family try to convince him that not only is the world and life precious and worth saving but Henry is too.
Shaun David Hutchinson’s book is driven by Henry’s inner monologue which encompasses an examination of our world that is deep and true. Henry has a harsh, cynical voice that many young readers have. Melodramatic teens have often considered or even wished for the possibility of the end of the world. Hutchinson introduces a protagonist who is faced with this question and hesitates.
Teens will appreciate Henry’s wit and sarcastic approach to the world. Science Fiction fans may be disappointed to find that this book is less about alien abductions and is more of a thoughtful and complex 451-page defense of why life is worth living, merely using the urgency of the alien apocalypse as a backdrop to underscore this analysis. More imaginative readers or those interested in science, history, and politics may be thoroughly amused by Henry’s wild yet insightful hypotheses for how the world will end. If taught in a classroom, these theories will also spark an interesting conversation about human relations and geopolitical systems. Readers should be aware and cautious of difficult and triggering themes in this book such as suicide and sexual assault.
Students who began reading the book with a rose-colored view of the world will reach the end with empathy and an appreciation and awareness of the darkness in the world. We Are the Ants inspires looking beyond the blanket “I’m fine,” encouraging introspection and hypervigilance. No one is fine—not even the perfect popular boy in school. For those who were cynical prior to reading this book and see Henry’s voice as a reflection of their own worldview, they will be greeted with an ode to all that is beautiful and complex about this world. Though it might seem obvious to some that the protagonist should press the button, Hutchinson simultaneously defends Henry’s point of view while underlining all the nuanced ways the world is beautiful and worth living.
By: Naana Obeng-Marnu
Hutchinson, Shaun D. We Are the Ants. Simon Pulse, 2016.