Ok so. Lucky ill-advisedly makes his social studies data-gathering project a questionaire on preferred method of suicide, which (in this day and age) sends everyone into a spiral of concern and hand-wringing, and what with one thing and some bullying and his parents’ rickety marriage, he and his mother ship out for a few weeks with his Uncle Dave and Aunt Jodi somewhere slightly podunk.
In addition to hanging out with Uncle Dave and discovering what it feels like to have an Engaged and Attentive Male Figure in his life, Lucky dreams about his grandfather, who vanished into the seething maw of the Vietnam war before Lucky’s father was born (see: reasons for a father’s aloofness).
And then ON TOP OF ALL THIS, Lucky sees the ants, who are like his own personal Greek Chorus and who enact his deepest desires and insecurities in tiny, many-legged dumbshow. Over the course of the novel (in which notalot happens: Lucky goes into his dreams to rescue his grandfather and also have man-chats with him, he meets a girl with piss and vinegar and very shiny hair, he has various fleeting heart-felt moments with adults) Lucky learns the invaluable lesson tucked into the title, that everybody sees the ants. I.e. we are all slightly effed.
And I wasn’t super-digging it at first. There are always complaints when fictional teenagers are too sharp and riposte-y and articulate, but the alternative is for them to sound like actual teenagers, and have you heard teenagers? Their speech is laced with Things They Think Sound Cool. Anyrelevance, sometimes Lucky sounds a bit too much like actual teenager for my readerly enjoyment, much as I appreciate the verisimilitude.
And at first Aunt Jodi is a Shrill Harpy™ and I am like, Nay, I reject your stock characters and I am sort of unimpressed with your antics, AS King. But
isn’t everyone a stock character when we first meet them? And as Lucky gets to know Jodi he uncovers (as do you, dear reader) that lo, she haveth layers. And at least one of those layers is comic (subspecies: unintentionally).
By the end I was on board this ant-parade. Eight caterpillars.