“Think about the absurdity of life.” So starts Henry Denton in the first paragraph of We Are the Ants by Shane David Hutchinson. And quite frankly he has a right to.
Henry Denton has spent years being periodically abducted by aliens. Then the aliens give him an ultimatum: The world will end in 144 days, and all Henry has to do to stop it is push a big red button.
Only he isn’t sure he wants to.
After all, life hasn’t been great for Henry. His mom is a struggling waitress held together by a thin layer of cigarette smoke. His brother is a jobless dropout who just knocked someone up. His grandmother is slowly losing herself to Alzheimer’s. And Henry is still dealing with the grief of his boyfriend’s suicide last year.
Wiping the slate clean sounds like a pretty good choice to him.
But Henry is a scientist first, and facing the question thoroughly and logically, he begins to look for pros and cons: in the bully who is his perpetual one-night stand, in the best friend who betrayed him, in the brilliant and mysterious boy who walked into the wrong class. Weighing the pain and the joy that surrounds him, Henry is left with the ultimate choice: push the button and save the planet and everyone on it…or let the world—and his pain—be destroyed forever.
This book is one of the rare few that I can truthfully say almost made me cry. I loved everything about it- the themes addressed, the relationships between the characters and especially their overall growth as the story goes on.
The main character Henry is one of the most well-developed characters I've found. He’s curious about the role humanity plays in the universe and overall, considering its vastness, how much our existence really matters. The question throughout the book about whether the human race is worth saving is also fascinating as you delve into Henry’s point of view while he deals with grief, bullying and ultimately hope. Also, as someone who loves science fiction, watching his interactions with the aliens was one of my favorite parts.
However not only Henry but each of the characters in the novel have similar depth. There's Audrey, his former friend, who is still dealing with her own sadness and guilt after the suicide of the third in their group, Jesse. There's Diego, the artist who Henry finds himself falling in love with and who has a murky past of his own. Even the bully who harasses Henry every day has his own secret doubts.
Overall though, the most amazing thing about this novel was the way that the characters grow. I don't want to give away anything about the ending but I can tell you that each of them learns and changes throughout the story. Although not everything turns out happily-ever-after, by the end of the story, the characters all come in more to themselves and grow up, even the adults. This is amazing to watch and really reminds me why I love reading
As for whether or not the world ends- I'll leave that for you to find out.