We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

Following the premiere of season 10 of The X-Files, I decided to pick up We Are the Ants.

Henry has been continually abducted by aliens since he was 13 years.  If that wasn’t bad enough, his dad abandoned the family when he was a child, his single mom is struggling to hold the family together while his grandmother is suffering from Alzheimer’s, his brother Charlie knocked up his girlfriend Zooey, and Henry’s boyfriend Jesse committed suicide last year.  It’s a lot to sort though – oh and the aliens have told him that the world is going to end in 144 days and Henry has the power to stop it but right now Henry doesn’t feel like he or the world are worth saving.

Full Goodreads synopsis found here.

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I feel like I’m in the minority here but I thought We Are the Ants was just so-so.  This book reminds me of an Andrew Smith novel which I’m sure for some readers is a major selling point but for me it means a book about a 16 year old boy that thinks about sex a lot while being consfused and angry along with a really weird premise.  I love the weird plots in the background but not the inner monologue of the boys (good thing I’ve got 16 years until I have a teenaged son).

Some things I liked -> The chapters are interspersed with journal entries of how Henry thinks the world could end.  Henry’s estranged best friend Audrey.  Jesse’s mom. Henry’s grandmother.  Apparently all the ladies.

Some things I didn’t like -> Description of the sluggers (aliens), I had no clear picture of their appearance.  Diego (love interest), I couldn’t get a good grasp on him.  Marcus (bully/love interest – enough said).  ANGST.  How Charlie/Zooey’s storyline played out.  SO MUCH ANGST.

It’s not a bad story, it’s just not for me but if you’re looking for an angsty contemporary novel with a sci twist check out We Are the Ants for yourself.

I received an ARC from Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, GA.

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Bookshelf Thursday

I did a minor amount of book shuffling on the shelves today.  Kendare Blake got moved around a little bit; I do like to keep author’s books together even if they span genres.  Some pretty good YA in this cubby if I do say so myself!

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April Genevieve Tucholke: Slasher Girls and Monster Boys

Kendare Blake: Anna Dressed in Blood, Girl of Nightmares, Antigoddess, Sleepwalk Society.

Andrew Smith: Grasshopper Jungle, 100 Sideways Miles

Becky Albertalli: Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

Rachel Allen: 17 First Kisses, The Revenge Playbook

Gayle Forman: Just One Day, Just One Year

Gwenda Bond: Girl on a Wire

Jennifer Miller: The Year of the Gadfly

I just finished Slasher Girls and Monster Boys today, I’ll post a review this weekend!  The next book on my list is Mosquitoland by David Arnold for bookclub next week (and of course I’m still perpetually in the middle of A Game of Thrones) What have you been reading this week?

Killer Unicorns, Need I Say More?

I have decided that I need to start a Ridiculous Premise Book Club. Right now I have a total of two books which fit this category perfectly – Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith and Rampant by Diana Peterfreund. I read Grasshopper Jungle last September after meeting Andrew Smith at the 2014 Decatur Book Festival. Quick synopsis: a 16 year old boy is torn between being in love with his girlfriend and his best friend (also a boy) while giant grasshoppers are on the verge of taking over the planet. Clearly Grasshopper Jungle perfectly fits into my Ridiculous Premise Book Club. However, long story short, for a super-hyped book (problem #1), I was very underwhelmed (Grasshopper Jungle Review).

Fast forward a couple months to the December Not-So-YA book club. For Christmas we decided on a white elephant book exchange and after much swapping and stealing of books, I ended up with Rampant (Killer Unicorns #1).

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Let me share with you the synopsis (from Goodreads):

Astrid had always scoffed at her eccentric mother’s stories about killer unicorns. But when one of the monsters attacks her boyfriend—thereby ruining any chance of him taking her to the prom—Astrid finds herself headed to Rome to train as a unicorn hunter at the ancient cloisters the hunters have used for centuries.

However, at the cloisters all is not what it seems. Outside, the unicorns wait to attack. And within, Astrid faces other, unexpected threats: from the crumbling, bone-covered walls that vibrate with a terrible power to the hidden agendas of her fellow hunters to—perhaps most dangerously of all—her growing attraction to a handsome art student … an attraction that could jeopardize everything

I’m sorry what???

Illustration by Commanderofthedead on DeviantArt

Illustration by Commanderofthedead on DeviantArt

No really what???

Commanderofthedead on DeviantArt

Illustration by Commanderofthedead on DeviantArt

Following the book exchange, Rampant was about as far down the list on my TBR as you could get. I told my co-workers about it over lunch one Friday then I found out the following Monday that one of them borrowed it from the library over the weekend and started reading it! Well if he was reading it, I wanted to read it so we could talk about the insanity together. I read the book in about a week and no one was more surprised than me that I actually really enjoyed this book. I liked a book about murderous unicorns and the teenage virgins with the powers to slay them! It was like a bizarro Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 7 with the Slayerettes.

Rampant was fast paced with a colorful cast of characters and certainly a unique take on one of the most well known mythical creatures. There were some issues with the book, namely that the girls not only had to have the right unicorn hunting lineage but also had to be virgins. I had a hard time accepting the lack of freedom these young women had over their own bodies and lives. However, that’s a heavy topic I’m not going to get into further at this time. Also, I didn’t realize how ingrained the idea of pure, kind unicorns was in my psyche. It was difficult to accept them as violent creatures and even root for their destruction. I’m not even sure I ever condoned violence against them but with five different species of unicorns, it was kind of easy to pretend they were a different mythical creature all together. For instant, I referred to the largest species of unicorn as a mammoth with a horn or a horned Snuffleupagus.

I’m not going to lie, I want to read Ascendant (Killers Unicorns #2) so clearly Peterfreund is doing something right with her ridiculous premise.

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What suggestions do you have for the Ridiculous Premise Book Club?

Book Review: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Here is a direct text message from yours truly to my bookish friend last night: I’m reading this book called Grosshopper Jungle about a 16 y/o [boy] sexually confused between his girlfriend and his best friend in the midst of life size insects destroying the world. LSD much?

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I feel like you can’t describe Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith without sounding completely ridiculous which is why I was drawn to the novel in the first place. I have being meaning to pick up this book ever since one of my fellow book clubbers expounded upon its amazingness. When I saw Andrew Smith in the line up for the Decatur Book Festival I decided it was time to take the plunge.

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Our main man is Austin Szerba, a young Polish historian in the making who lives in the dying town of Ealing, Iowa. He is in love with his girlfriend Shann and thinks about having sex with her all the time – all.the.time. Austin is also in love with his best friend Robby and needless to say Austin is very confused about his situation. One night a literal series of unfortunate events leads to the beginning of the end of the world. Austin and Robby are skateboarding in the alley behind a rundown strip mall when they are beat up by four guys for being queer. The pair return later that night to retrieve their shoes tossed onto the roof by the assholes. They witness the same bullies stealing a pulsing, glowing orb from the pawn shop where Austin works. The self contained terrarium is accidentally dropped and shatters in the alleyway. The substance within mixes with Robby’s blood on the pavement from the fight earlier and unleashes the genetically engineered giant grasshoppers of death. The situation then snowballs even further out of control.

The downfall of Ealing at the pinchers of giant grasshoppers is interspersed with Austin sharing the history of his family and town and of course the analysis of his feelings for Robby and Shann. We hear about how confused Austin is the entire novel and come to think of it I’m pretty sure he’s still confused at the end of the novel which concludes five years later. I would have liked to have heard even more about the grasshoppers and less about Austin’s inner conflict. By the end of novel, I (and Rob) realize how selfish Austin really is, he is more concerned with his own happiness and sexual fulfillment than either Shann or Rob. It was pretty disappointing actually.

Austin tells his stories in a similar fashion to Jim Dale’s narration of Pushing Daisies – “The facts were these…” However Austin’s detailed histories of his relatives and the townspeople of Ealing are repetitive and by the end of the novel I was skimming the parts that were repeats of histories already shared earlier in the novel. I think this might have been a case of having my expectations set too high. Grasshopper Jungle was certainly an entertaining read but I was looking for a bit more substance and conclusion to both conflicts – Austin’s sexual awakening and the giant ass insects killing everyone!