King, A. S. Everybody Sees the Ants. New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2011. Print.
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Plot Summary (from inside cover)
"Lucky Linderman doesn't want to wake up...Lucky Linderman didn't ask for his life. He didn't ask his grandfather not to come home from the Vietnam War. He didn't ask for a father who never got over it. He didn't ask for a mother who keeps pretending their dysfunctional family is fine. And he didn't ask to be the target of Nader McMillan's relentless bullying, which has finally gone too far.
But Lucky has a secret--one that helps him wade through the daily mundane torture of his life. In his dreams, Lucky escapes to the war-ridden jungles of Laos--the prison his grandfather couldn't escape--where Lucky can be a real man, an adventurer, and a hero. It's dangerous and wild, and it's a place where his life just might be worth living. But how long can Lucky keep hiding in his dreams before reality forces its way inside?"
I can't remember now how I first heard of this story and put this in my "to read pile." A.S. King touches on a few topics, but the biggest is about bullying-- a topic I wrestle with helping my teens--so I moved it "up" on the pile.
The story follows Lucky Linderman's life. He has been bullied since he was 7 years old by Nader McMillan. The latest incident sends him and his mother to stay with his uncle and aunt in Arizona. Staying with them was quite an experience. Aunt Jodi is C.R.A.Z.Y. crazy! Uncle Dave tries to mentor Lucky, but Dave has his own secrets.
The ants do play a part in Lucky's imagination. He first finds them in his jungle dreams, where he tries to save his grandfather. Later, he sees the ants reacting to the people in Lucky's life. The ants provide a bit of comic relief, and I found that the ants and I often agreed.
Another thing I found funny was the scab on Lucky's face. As the story progresses, the shape of the scab changes. It begins looking like Ohio, changing to West Virginia, the hand part of Michigan, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and finally Hawaii. I could visualize the changing shape.
Lucky meets Ginny, a girl who is a night ninja. (Read the book--this will make sense). There is a wonderful analogy that tie Lucky & Ginny together. "That's the perfect way to explain how I feel about everything in the world. I don't even use the stupid shampoo" (King 219). Again, read the book.
When Lucky and his family go to the Grand Canyon, I knew his description was true. "It really is the most mind-blowing thing I've ever seen...All we can say is 'wow'" (King 153).
The book is divided into three parts. The title reference appears on page 243. Lucky addresses the reader by starting some chapters with "___ thing you need to know." There are 12 things the reader needs to know.
The book doesn't offer answers or try to preach about bullies, even though I recognize many "answers" the adults try to give Lucky. The story shows how bullying can sometimes occur over years, and how it manifests in different relationships. In one part of the story, Lucky says, "It occurs to me that...we'd be like a folded map of America...I wonder, then, how many other kids could join in. Where are the Montanas and the Colorados? Where is Vermont? Florida? How many maps could we make?" (King 241).
The ending is hopeful. Lucky realizes he'll have to be the change he wants. He starts by eating what his dad cooked and finally saying goodbye to his granddad in his dreams.