Imagine this: for most of your life, you’ve been abducted by aliens. They never did anything to hurt you, save for those times when they dropped you off miles from your house in your underwear. But one day, while the aliens are abducting you, they show you two things: a 3D map of the world, and a button. If you don’t push the button, the world will end and all life on Earth will cease to exist; but if you do push the button, everyone will be saved (though they may not know it) and life, as unimportant as it was, is, and always will be in the grand scheme of things, will continue.
In Shaun David Hutchinson’s We Are the Ants, this is the situation that Henry Denton – a high school kid from Calypso, Florida – finds himself in, only several months before the day the aliens say the world is going to end. Henry is tasked by the aliens, or sluggers as he calls them, with pressing the button and saving the world, or letting humanity crumble after some unknown, yet slowly approaching disaster. What comes after is a long, emotionally riveting journey in his search for an answer to the question: is the world worth saving?
Henry’s struggle to find an answer is one which will come as no surprise to the average teenage reader. Why, after all, would he save a world in which his parents were divorced, his boyfriend committed suicide, he faced constant name-calling and physical violence at school, he watched his grandmother’s drawn-out fight with Alzheimer’s, and more? It is through these intense daily battles in Henry’s life that Hutchinson leads the reader, revealing along the way the complexities of teenage life. What are we willing to do to save the ones we love? What is the meaning of human existence? Does any of this even matter?
We Are the Ants will undoubtedly force the reader to answer many of these questions in an attempt to understand the meaning of our own existence. Hutchinson’s snarky narrative is impossible not to enjoy, giving us insight into the hopes, fears, anxieties, and existential dread that Henry Denton faces every day in his life. The book’s masterful exploration of teenage agency, and who exactly is to blame for all of our problems, will allow the reader to bask in the comfort of uncertainty that awaits us. Yes, we are all going to die one day, but does all the stuff between now and then matter? As Henry finds out, we are, indeed, the ants – but in the end, the significance of that is entirely up to us.
Post by Lucas Benjamin
Hutchinson, Shaun David. We Are the Ants. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2016. Print.