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A Reader of Fictions: Ants Marching - Dave Matthews Band

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ants Marching - Dave Matthews Band

Everybody Sees the Ants

Author: A. S. King
Pages: 190
ARC Acquired from: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
Lucky Linderman has been bullied by Nader McMillan since they were 7 and Nader peed on his feet in a public restroom. Lucky tried to get help, but no one would act, not his parents, not other student and not the school. Nader's father is a high-powered lawyer and bystanders would rather risk one boy's sanity and happiness than risk a lawsuit. Lucky's parents are distant, his mother retreats to the pool where she does endless laps and his father, a chef, retreats to the kitchen. Lucky retreats to his dreams where he attempts to rescue his grandfather, a POW/MIA in Vietnam. After yet another awful attack from Nader, Lucky and his mom take off to visit his aunt and uncle in Arizona where Lucky will need to do some soul searching.

This is my first experience with A. S. King, whose books I have wanted to read ever since I read a glowing review of one of his books on Presenting Lenore. I can now see why she received such high praise. King does not shy away from confronting seriously tough truths. She captures just how harsh children can be and does not sugarcoat anything.

Bullying: Nader McMillan is a classic bully, the whole school afraid to piss him off. The fact that he has it out for Lucky, for no reason so far as I could tell, means that Lucky cannot really make friends, since no one wants Nader's attention. In fact, others pick on Lucky to earn Nader's approval. Undoubtedly the most intense scene in the book is a memory of what Nader does to snitches. Let's just say that this cannot be explained away with "boys will be boys." Perhaps even more terrifying is that no one will do anything to stop this. Just imagine what an awful person Nader will grow into if he learns that he has the right to do anything he wishes.

Family: Just because your parents give you everything you need physically and do not beat you does not mean that the relationship is healthy. Lucky's parents are somewhat neglectful, trying to recover from their own past damage. They love their sun, but do so completely ineffectually. Much as teens may pull away, parents need to be there for them. King also considers the fact that just because someone is a little crazy does not make them unlovable; nor does the fact that someone acts really cool mean that they're actually a good person. Basically, everything is complicated when it comes to family.

The Vietnam War: This may actually be my favorite aspect of the book. It is rife with statistics on and references to the Vietnam War, which is one of my favorite historical periods to study. Lucky's grandmother, his dad and he himself are all really into the POW/MIA movement, since Lucky's grandfather was one of the men never to return. This element to warfare, all of the families who never know if their father/husband/son is still alive or dead, is one not focused on very often, as authors tend to focus on the more exciting aspects, rather than the effect the war has years down the line.

The Dreams & the Ants: Honestly, the ants were weird. They, along with the dreams of his grandfather, are really strange. The ants are a metaphor for victimization and standing up for oneself, which I get, but I do not really understand why. The dreams are totally magical realism, because Lucky brings something tangible back from every dream.. I love some well done magical realism.

Everybody Sees the Ants is seriously hard-hitting and entertaining. Lucky makes a great main character, growing in confidence and learning to be himself. Plus, he reads Catch-22, which automatically makes him totally cool. If you like dark humor and truly realistic fiction, give Everybody Sees the Ants a read.

"He wakes up in the morning.
Does his teeth, bite to eat and he's rolling

Never changes a thing.

The week ends, the week begins.

She thinks, we look at each other

Wondering what the other is thinking,

But we never say a thing.

And these crimes between us grow deeper.

Take these chances

Place them in a box until a quieter time.

Lights down, you up and die."

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