A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that We Are the Ants explores mature themes, including grief, teen suicide, depression, bullying, and bad relationships as narrator Henry, who's been repeatedly abducted by aliens, tries and most often fails to find a reason to save the world from total destruction. Frank language describes teen male sexuality, frequently mentioning masturbation and referencing genitalia with terms such as "d--k," "prick," and "balls." Strong language is frequent and also includes variations of "s--t" and "f--k," "asshole," and more. Other sexual content includes some kissing and light making out. Violence isn't frequent but includes an attempted rape, an attack with the victim bound and gagged, punching, kicking, beating, and some fantasy violence such as being experimented on by aliens. Blood's mentioned a few times, and the pain from injuries is described. Best for mature teens who like their sci-fi with a heaping, healthy dose of bleak, world-weary angst.
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What's the story?
Henry Denton was 13 the first time he was abducted by aliens and taken to their spaceship for experimentation. Three years and multiple abductions have passed since then, and the aliens have finally made Henry understand that in a little over three months, Earth and everything on it is going to be destroyed --- unless Henry chooses to save the world by pushing a big red button. But since his boyfriend, Jesse, committed suicide last year, Henry hasn't seen that there's much of life worth preserving. Surely he and his struggling family would all be better off if they just ceased to exist? Enter new student Diego, a handsome artist with a dark past, who shows Henry through his paintings and his appreciation of the world's beauty, that even if WE ARE THE ANTS, we're here, we matter, and no one can take that away from us.
Is it any good?
Shaun David Hutchinson's compelling story has a surprisingly relatable hero, takes on a lot, and provides much food for thought for mature teens wondering what life's really about. Henry's voice is believable and provides a firm anchor for navigating what in less-capable hands would be a confusing jumble of family dysfunction, grief, alien abduction, love, bullying, and friendship -- in short, the whole teen experience.
Henry's inability to see anything positive gets frustrating sometimes. And the conclusion has a bit of a magic-wand feel to it that leaves a cynical aftertaste. But mature teens who are wondering about their place in the world and how they’ll ever be able to cope with life’s enormity will learn a lot from going on this strange, dark journey with Henry.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about coping with depression. What are some good resources you can turn to if you or someone you love might suffer from depression?
Why are books and movies about the end of the world so popular? Why are we so fascinated by the possibility? Which of Henry's scenarios for how it happens seemed most realistic to you?
If you could prevent the end of the world by pushing a button, would you push it? Why, or why not?
- Author: Shaun David Hutchinson
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, High School, Misfits and Underdogs, Space and Aliens
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon Pulse
- Publication date: January 19, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 464
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: May 16, 2021
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