This feature is for short reviews, reviews of books in a series where it might feel repetitive, or (as Michelle suggested) books I was too lazy to write a “real” review for. Today’s books I buddy read with my brother Phil. We decided to read books together this year and I’m having him pick the books, to pull me out of my comfort zone a bit. Both books were not books I would have probably picked on my own and I enjoyed them both!We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
Published by Simon Pulse on January 19, 2016
Genres: LGBTQIA, Contemporary, Science Fiction, Young Adult
From the author of The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley comes a brand-new novel about a teenage boy who must decide whether or not the world is worth saving.
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 year my brother and I decided we wanted to do some buddy reading. And we knew we’d take it at a slow pace – he doesn’t read a ton, even though he enjoys reading and I have lots of other reading going on. And I love being able to talk books with my best friend <3. He’s picking the books, which is great because he’s exposing me to books, I otherwise wouldn’t have read or heard of. We Are the Ants definitely falls into that category. I would never have picked it up – its sounds like Sci-Fi (minimally so), which is not my genre. But it had enough to pique my interest, so I was in. And I really enjoyed it.
I enjoyed it – but OMG it’s brutal. Our narrator, Henry is SEVERELY depressed. And for a lot of really good reasons. He’s so depressed that when given the scenario that he could save the world by pushing a button – that’s it, simple, push a button – his first response is no. He and everyone else would be better off if the world ended. And I appreciated his complex response to the question of did he want to die? No, but he didn’t particularly want to keep living either. He wasn’t going to hurt himself, but he wasn’t going to try too hard to stay alive either. SO DEPRESSED.
What follows is a complex story of dealing with severe, situational depression – there may be some chemical in there too, but no doubt situational – and the knocks just seem to keep on coming. And yet it’s also a heartwarming story because you watch him start to find reasons amidst the struggle to want to maybe think about pushing that button — choosing to live. Henry is in high school, openly gay, with a boyfriend who recently committed suicide, a father that walked out and a grandmother going through dementia… just to give you a lay of the land. Oh, and there’s one other thing…
You know how I said it’s kind of Sci-Fi? well Henry is called “Space Boy” because he has been getting periodically abducted by aliens for most his life, returned naked, or just in his underwear, all over their city after hours or days. We spend some time with him with the aliens and I admit, it was an interesting twist to the story. I spent quite a bit of the book wondering if we were going to either find out that the alien abductions are just a reflection of his severe depression or if they were real… and I’m not going to tell you, you get to find out when you read it 🙂
A great read and I would definitely consider more from Shaun David Hutchinson!The Stranger by Albert Camus, Matthew Ward
Published by Vintage on August 8, 2012
Through the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed "the nakedness of man faced with the absurd." First published in 1946; now in a new translation by Matthew Ward.
My brother has a real knack for finding books I’ve never heard of and would probably never have read on my own – and then they turn out being pretty good!
This is an older, award-winning book which is how it ended up on Phil’s short list. I can see why it won awards, there’s something very mesmerizing by it. The title is interesting because I’m not 100% sure who The Stranger is that it’s meant to refer to, but I do think the main character was very strange. It’s as if he has no emotion – though that’s not exactly accurate. This is such a hard book to explain without telling you what happened. But I will say, it’s a very quick read… I READ it (not listened – not even sure if it’s available in audio) and it only took me 4 days. If you know me, you know that’s super-fast. Many of you would probably put it away in one day lol. I recommend it, because it is super compelling and just different from so much of what I normally read – it was nice to go off the beaten path.