If you could press a button to stop the upcoming destruction of the world, would you? Henry’s been abducted by aliens and offered this choice, and he has 144 days to decide. On one hand, the world as Henry sees it doesn’t particularly seem worth saving. He’s haunted by his boyfriend Jesse’s suicide and estranged from their mutual friend Audrey. A purely physical relationship with the class bully ultimately leaves him hollow. And at home, his mother has put her dreams on hold, his father hasn’t been in touch in years, his grandmother is slowly losing her mind to Alzheimer’s and his older brother’s girlfriend is pregnant. But then Henry meets Diego, a teen with secrets of his own. With Diego’s perspective and those of his teachers, family and friends, Henry starts to wonder if maybe he should press that button and save the world after all.
At first, We Are the Ants seems to be magical realism with a slightly silly premise and a theme of resilience in the face of tragedy. And it might be that, or it might be a meditation on the power of storytelling. Or an experiment in a blended style of realistic and fantastical fiction. Or all of these combined. Either way, it promises to be one of the most talked-about YA books of 2016.
Jill Ratzan matches readers with books in a small library in southeastern Pennsylvania.