A.S. King tackles two significant topics in Everybody Sees the Ants. The first is the status of the Missing in Action in our sundry wars and the second is bullying. Known recently for her highly praised Ask the Passengers, King’s 2011 novel centers on Lucky Linderman who has been bullied by Nader McMillan since he was seven years old when Nader peed on Lucky in a restaurant restroom and escalated to rubbing Lucky’s face in the concrete by the local community pool when Lucky was fifteen forming a scab that started out taking the shape of Ohio and diminishing to various other states before finally healing.
Two underlying themes include Lucky’s proposed (but vetoed) social studies project, a survey of the student body with the question “If you were going to commit suicide, what method would you use?” This, of course, spurred the school’s administration into action, suggesting that Lucky seek professional help…thus avoiding the issues surrounding why kids would want to commit suicide to begin with.
The second is Lucky’s grandfather, Harry, who is a Vietnam veteran missing in action. His grandmother, Janice, was an MIA advocate and refused repeated governmental attempts to have her agree to change his status to presumed dead. On her deathbed when Lucky was seven, she made him promise to find Harry. Of course, Lucky had no clue as to what this meant, but it started a series of unusual dreams.
We are all familiar with bullying (this book was excerpted in an audio CD on bullying…that’s how it came to my attention). King created a bully we can all visualize in Nader. There is no person unscathed from his actions. Compounded by Lucky’s inactive parents, he has no recourse but to ‘take it’.
We are less cognizant of the fact that there remain MIA veterans from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
King’s characters’ lives vary, in many ways making us realize that we all have shit to deal with and while we may have it rough, there are people who have it rougher, although on the outside everything looks fine. King makes her point on both counts with an entertaining book, interesting characters and fine writing. You can read Everybody Sees the Ants for the enjoyment or for a purpose, but in either event, you’ll have a good read.