Teen Book: Everybody Sees the Ants
In A.S. King's Everybody Sees the Ants, the narrative voice belongs to fifteen-year-old Lucky Linderman, bullied by a peer and surrounded by kind but ineffective adults. No one stands up for Lucky, not even his mom and dad, whose marriage seems to be unraveling. To complicate matters, in his recurring dreams, Lucky is trying to save his POW-MIA grandfather―his father's father―who was left behind in Vietnam. Through all these difficulties, Lucky tries to act as though everything is fine, even when the bullying gets worse and his mother takes him to her brother's house in Arizona. There Lucky catches his breath, learns to lift weights, and finally finds some strong, helpful friends.
The story skillfully blends realism with a touch of magic. As he struggles for traction at home and in his community, Lucky's voice is by turns angry, confused, funny, and heartbreakingly self-perceptive. There are resolutions for his troubles that are satisfying and entirely believable. In this memorable coming-of-age story, a fascinating and complex young man manages to pull himself together and to find an emotional path toward adulthood.
Recommended to me by members of a young-adult book group, the novel, for grade nine and older, rates very strongly in my book for characters, plot, writing and verisimilitude (the quality of seeming true to life). A.S. King won the Printz Honor for her book Please Ignore Vera Dietz.