I have a bit of a quandary. This is probably the best YA novel I've read this year to date (though I have not yet read Code Name Verity), but it's hard to discuss what makes it good without getting into giant spoilers. I read it without even reading the cover copy, and that was probably the best way to approach it.

It starts when Lucky Linderman, age fifteen, gets a parent-teacher meeting called because he used his social studies assignment to do a survey to ask, "If you were going to commit suicide, what method would you choose?" He tells them it was a joke; actually, he was attempting to amuse and so placate his nemesis, the school bully. The survey proceeds to take on a life of its own, which continues throughout the book.

Meanwhile, every night, in surreal, often darkly funny episodes, Lucky dreams of trying to rescue his forty-years-since MIA grandfather from Vietnam. Spoiler text spoils something that, in the book, is revealed on page 36. It's a good reveal. Read more... )

Very cleverly plotted, well-written, funny, well-characterized, and an interesting mix of genres. The interconnected intricacy of imagery, plot, and theme reminded me of Louis Sachar's Holes or Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me.

I liked how it dealt with a ridiculous number of Very Serious Issues without reading like a problem novel about bullying/POWs/suicide/Etc. I'm not sure that the resolution of the plotline about the bully worked as well as the other storyline conclusions, but that was about my only criticism. I had a general idea of how the Vietnam storyline had to resolve, but the specifics were surprising and satisfying. Highly recommended.

Has anyone read anything else by King? She has two other novels, but I never even heard of her before. Sherwood recommended this, an Andre Norton Award finalist.

Everybody Sees the Ants
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