Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King
New York, NY: Little Brown, 2011
3.5 out of 5
Lucky Linderman didn't ask for his life. He didn't ask his grandfather not to come home from the Vietnam War. He didn't ask for a father who never got over it. He didn't ask for a mother who keeps pretending their dysfunctional family is fine. And he didn't ask to be the target of Nader McMillan's relentless bullying which has finally gone too far.
But Lucky has a secret--one that helps him wade through the daily mundane torture of his life. In his dreams, Lucky escapes to the war-ridden jungles of Laos--the prison his grandfather couldn't escape--where Lucky can be a real man, an adventurer, and a hero. It's dangerous and wild, and it's a place where his life just might be worth living. But how can Lucky keep hiding in his dreams before reality forces its way inside?
I'm still not sure how I feel about this book. It wasn't bad by any means, in fact, I liked many element of it. The problem arises from just not knowing what to make of it. It can absolutely be classified as magical realism, and it is the inclusion of these fantastic moments that lose me.
On the realistic side of things, this novel tackles quite a few issues, including parental separation, bullying, and abuse. Most of these issues come to a resolution in the real world but with help from fantasy elements, such as Lucky spending evenings with his POW Grandfather in the jungles of Vietnam, and his talking with dancing ants.
The dream nights with Grandpa are what I had the most difficulty with. The more I consider this novel, the more I feel that maybe I should reread it. Maybe a second time around the jungle will provide me with some answers like it did for Lucky.
As my review shows, I'm a bit ambiguous about this one. I really liked some parts, but didn't like others. The characters are very well fleshed out, and I love Lucky's comparisons of his parents to animals. But the purpose of some elements is unclear to me. In fact, the novel itself is a little fuzzy as I try to look back on it. I'll have to give it another go at some point.
Disclosure: Borrowed from the library.