We are the Ants, Shaun David Hutchison

We Are the Ants was brought to my attention because it sits at the intersection of two of my great loves: gay stuff and aliens. Henry Denton has been getting abducted since he was 13 years old. Suddenly the aliens switch things up and offer him a choice: The world is gonna end, but if he pushes a big red button he can save it. Problem: his boyfriend hanged himself last year, he gets bullied at school, his life sucks and he’s not so sure the world is worth saving.

Truth be told this book is pretty light on the aliens. They’re really just part of the premise, but I wouldn’t even call this book a sci-fi. It’s a high school drama with some aliens backdrop. Normally I wouldn’t have touched it if I realized that, but having come out of the other side… I really liked it? I pretty much devoured it in 2 days. Henry is a delight of a narrator, his emotional problems didn’t piss me off because they were believable and legit, and the occasional alien appearance probably soothed me a little when the drama got too much.

The characters are what makes this book wonderful. Henry, Diego, Audrey, his family, I loved ALL of them. Zooey is a presh lil’ angel. Folks even the high school bully had me rooting for him at times (I’ll be honest, I think Hutchinson did Marcus dirty toward the end and disservices his character by kinda making him too evil?). The author has a way of turning characters into stories. In particular, Henry’s grandmother Nana, who has Alzheimer’s, has a really beautiful journey for readers to follow.

This book also has chapter breaks/filler chapters. Y’all know I usually hate those. In this case, it’s different scenarios of how the world could end and I LOVED THEM. There were times they had me laughing out loud! This book has really surprised me. I never would have expected to get such joy from teen angst, and yet here we are. I rate this book: cat surprised by its own reflection but delighted to make a new friend in it.

Caraval, Stephanie Garber

Stephanie Garber’s Caraval is the story of Scarlett, who enters a dangerous, confusing game– the Caraval– in order to find her missing sister. Along the way there’s some intrigue, romance, and even a little bit of magic. I heard so many good things about this book. It was one of the finalists for the GoodReads Choice Awards, and it’s been all over most of the book blogs I enjoy. I can see why people love Caraval, but for me, it didn’t live up to the hype.

I love the concept behind Caraval. The game itself was a delight to read. The contestants follow clues to lead them to the final prize, but the world of Caraval works in strange ways and it’s difficult to know who can be trusted, since some players will do whatever it takes to win. On top of that, the mystery of the Caraval’s master, a man named Legend, keeps you guessing throughout the novel.

What sucks most about the novel is the same thing that sucks about most YA novels: the romance. I’m super over novels where young girls fall for dark, mysterious, brooding guysHoney, he’s just a douchebag, and revealing alternative explanations for someone’s crappy behaviour after the fact doesn’t justify those behaviours or make them any less crappy. “Cool motive, still murder,” right? On top of that, the romance– or lack thereof– was super dull. There is literally zero genuine chemistry between Scarlett and Julian. The moments where Scarlett questions whether or not she likes him come at you out of left field because there’s literally nothing preceeding them that would give her reason to like him, other than his pretty face.

The ending of Caraval left a lot to be desired for me, as well. There were a ton of twists and reveals which is normally cool, but multiple times I felt like, “wow she really went there! gutsy!” and then Garber pops up and she’s all “nyeaahhh! psych!!” The ending we get is ultimately too safe and too boring for me, considering what we could have had.

Caraval will definitely remain a hit with certain types of readers. If you like your romance steamy if not necessarily with much substance, if you’re into intrigue and puzzles, or if you’re a sucker for happy endings, this may be the book for you. A fun and fast read, definitely, but a little too on the light side for me. I rate this book: poolside-lounging cat…. 3 and half stars.

Have a poolside snooze with Caraval, on Amazon.