Saturday, September 15, 2018

Mini Reviews: We Are The Ants || The Cresswell Plot











We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson


Genre: Young adult contemporary
Pages: 464
Publication Date: January 2016

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.



Likes: As soon as I heard about this book, I knew that I needed it. A random teenager is abducted by aliens and charged with saving the world (or not). Yes, please, I want to read that.

The characters are complex. Henry is bullied at school because his brother decided to inform everybody that Henry is occasionally abducted by aliens and deposited—naked—in random swamps. At first, the bullies seem like stereotypical YA bad kids, but the author actually takes time to develop their characters. They’re not shallow stereotypes. They’re realistic kids who make terrible choices.

Since I was also bullied in school, I found Henry relatable. It’s hard to value yourself when other people constantly tell you that you’re worthless. I understand Henry’s depression. I was a lot like him when I was a teenager. (Well, I was never abducted by aliens and asked to save the world, but you know what I mean.) I understand the loneliness and how you eventually stop caring about most things.


I saw the world from the stars' point of view, and it looked unbearably lonely.We Are The Ants



Dislikes: This book has two of my biggest pet peeves in literature. First, the romance completely takes over the plot. The novel starts out being about a kid who is abducted by aliens. It ends up being a story about a kid who has a boyfriend. Since I’m not a romance lover, I wanted to read about the aliens. Unfortunately, the alien plotline fizzles out when Henry gets into a relationship. It actually fizzles so much that the resolution seems like a lame afterthought.

Second, the issues that Henry has with everybody could be fixed with a few conversations. I know that talking can be painful, but I get frustrated when characters continually cause drama about problems instead of solving them with one tough conversation.

At times, the plot is a bit like tragedy porn. Pretty much every bad thing that can happen to a teenager happens to Henry. There’s suicide, bullying, mental illness, sick family members, death, rape, divorce, anger problems, jail, betrayal, abusive relationships, failing grades, financial problems, alien abduction. I wondered if we really needed all of those things. I would have like the author to pick a few and focus on them in depth.



The Bottom Line: If you’re a romance fan, you’ll probably love this book. The characters are realistic, and there’s a heavy focus on relationships. If you’re looking for an alien abduction story, you might be disappointed. The aliens are an underdeveloped subplot.









The Cresswell Plot by Eliza Wass


Genre: Young adult contemporary
Pages: 272
Publication Date: June 2016

Castella Cresswell and her five siblings—Hannan, Caspar, Mortimer, Delvive, and Jerusalem—know what it’s like to be different. For years, their world has been confined to their ramshackle family home deep in the woods of upstate New York. They abide by the strict rule of God, whose messages come directly from their father.

Slowly, Castley and her siblings start to test the boundaries of the laws that bind them. But, at school, they’re still the freaks they’ve always been to the outside world. Marked by their plain clothing. Unexplained bruising. Utter isolation from their classmates. That is, until Castley is forced to partner with the totally irritating, totally normal George Gray, who offers her a glimpse of a life filled with freedom and choice.





Likes: A story about weirdos in the woods? You know I’m always here for that.

So, this little book is fantastically messed up. The narrator and her five strangely named siblings live with their parents in the woods. The government has recently started forcing the Cresswell siblings to attend school, which has opened a new world to them. The siblings’ reactions to life outside the woods are realistically mixed. They want to be “normal” kids, but they don’t want to disappoint their fanatically Christian parents. The harder they try to fit in at school, the crazier their father becomes. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but the end of the story is nuts. It gets violent and intense.

I love that the teen characters speak like teens. They swear, make crude sexual comments, and are constantly insulting each other. Basically, they behave like (almost) everyone I knew as a teen.

Since the kids are so realistic, they’re easy to love. I wanted Castley to leave her abusive father, but I didn’t want her to lose her siblings. I was scared for the kids at the end. I didn’t want them to get hurt, and I didn’t see how all of them could get out of the woods alive. I was definitely invested in the characters.


Keep your eyes fixed firmly on heaven. That is where we belong. – The Cresswell Plot



Dislikes: Either I’ve read too many cult books, or the foreshadowing is too heavy. I predicted (most of) the ending. I knew who was going to save the kids. Since I knew what was going to happen, I got frustrated that the plot was taking so long to get there. There’s a ton of slow buildup, and then everything is over in a rush. The pacing is all over the place.

I think the book needed to be longer. (Or maybe spend less time focusing on Castley’s angsty waffling.) There are a lot of characters. A few of them are well-developed, but the rest are just . . . there. I wanted to know what was happening in their lives. Making the book longer could have helped with that.




The Bottom Line: Not my favorite fictional cult book. (That honor still goes to The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood.) Overall, I liked it. I got frustrated with the pacing, but the characters kept my attention. 













20 comments:

  1. Ugh I think those things about We Are Ants would bug me too- removing from TBR! Though I am adding The Year of the Flood so there's that! And I think I will give The Cresswell Plot a chance, since it sounds decent and also it is short! Great reviews!

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  2. I still need to read We Are the Ants (I've owned it forever and it's kind of terrible I haven't read it yet whoops🙊) but I really liked The Cresswell Plot! The kids were great, although yeah it was a bit predictable, but like so weird and creepy. 😭😭

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    1. I hope you like We Are The Ants. If you like romance, then you’ll probably like it more than I did.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  3. Wow, We Are the Ants seems to have a LOT going on. That's a whole lot of issues thrown into one kid's life. Geez. I'm definitely intrigued by the premise, but with the lack of communication (and So. Many. Issues.) I'm not in a huge hurry to pick this one up.

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    1. The kid had so many problems! And several of them could have been solved by talking. I don’t understand why fictional people don’t want to fix their issues.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  4. You hit on one of my pet peeves - lack of communication. When problems between characters are easily solved by conversations, brief conversations at that, I get annoyed too...like every romance novel ever has this problem for me to some degree.

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    1. That’s one of the reasons I don’t read much romance. I can’t stand miscommunication plotlines unless there’s a really good reason for them.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  5. I always thought We Are the Ants was about relationships, because I always heard about the LGBT+ rep in it, but after reading the synopsis, I believe you were lied to. I like Hutchinson and romance AND science, so it sounds good to me. I have Cresswell, unread of course. It sounds a little outside of my norm, but entertaining.

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    1. I thought there’d be some romance because most books seem to have it, but the synopsis made me think there’d be more aliens. I didn’t expect all romance and barely any aliens. I hope you enjoy Cresswell, if you read it!

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  6. We Are the Ants sounds so promising - I never would have guessed that the romance would take over. I would have been disappointed, too!

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  7. Too bad about We Are the Ants. Sounds like a really unique and interesting premise that gets underused. And I find it frustrating when a book features too many issues---I agree that I always wish the author would pick one or two and focus on those.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. Exactly! I’d rather read about 1 or 2 issues in depth instead of ALL the issues.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  8. We Are the Ants is on my "didn't live up to its premise" shelf on Goodreads, so I must have had much the same reaction. (Everybody Sees the Ants, on the other hand, is really good, if you haven't read that one yet.) . I'm mildly intrigued by The Cresswell Plot and The Year of the Flood now!

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    1. I’ve heard of Everybody Sees The Ants, but I haven’t read it. I’ll look it up.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  9. I was immediately hooked by We are the ants, but I'm sorry to see the romance takes over :( Dammit.

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    1. Yeah, I was disappointed, too. It’s probably a perfect book for romance lovers, though.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  10. I loved your review, divided into likes and dislikes. I'm curious about We Are The Ants, since I bought it in Hong Kong!

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