Monthly Archives: March 2016

We Are the Ants, by Shaun David Hutchinson

We Are the AntsHenry Denton’s boyfriend committed suicide last year, and he cannot heal his heart. Nothing else in his life is sunshiny, either. His single mother, a talented cook, is working slavishly as a waitress while smoking herself to death. His older brother never even finished high school, but he has just announced that his pregnant girlfriend is moving into their crowded house, and his beloved Nana is being slowly unwound by Alzheimer’s.

So, when the aliens pick Henry up and give him the power to save the earth from assured destruction, he just can’t think of a good reason to push the red button. They continue to abduct him randomly, dumping him back on earth in nothing but his underwear after yet another unsuccessful attempt to spare the planet. If this continues, the earth will be destroyed on January 29, 2016. Every few chapters, another possible scenario plays out before our eyes.

Henry made the painful mistake of telling one of the boys at school about the aliens, and ever since then, he is taunted with “Space Boy” in the halls, beaten up, and worse. Diego Vega, the new kid, is the only one who believes Henry—or at least he pretends to. Diego has just broken up with his girlfriend, and he lives alone with his sister. He is gorgeous, friendly, artistic, ultra-cool, and obviously hiding something about his past.

I was heading to a convention last week when a sponsor told me that Shaun David Hutchinson would be one of the authors speaking at the luncheon. I grabbed my galley of We Are the Ants and started reading on the plane. I was about halfway through when I met Shaun, and we shared our sorrow over the effects of Alzheimer’s on the people we loved: my father, his grandmother. Nana in the book is his real Nana, and I told him how one passage in particular had moved me to tears. He is a fine writer but completely unpretentious and friendly, and the book reflects some of his life experiences in high school as a gay teen. Probably not the alien abductions, though. We Are the Ants has garnered five starred critical reviews, which is very rare. You can look for this one to show up in the buzz again next year when the awards are given out.

Moving, gut-wrenching, and fun, this novel will keep your attention right up to the excellent ending. I’m not tellin’. The language is fairly dreadful, as is typical for YA boy stories, and other cautions for sensitive readers are obvious and well-deserved. There is nothing delicate about this story. There is nothing predictable about the plot, either. You’ll just have to come along for the ride to find out what Henry does about that red button.

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Disclaimer: I read an advance reader copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else. The brilliant phrase describing dementia as “being slowly unwound” is Mr. Hutchinson’s, not mine.

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Politically Incorrect Book Reviews

Although I’ve been reading, I’ve been so wrapped up in the downfall of western civilization that I haven’t stopped to review. While the barbarians continue their Twitter wars, here are some thoughts on two recent reads.

StilettoI will not tease you with a full-length review of Daniel O’Malley’s long-awaited second novel, Stiletto, since it does not arrive on shelves until June, and that is just too much torture. However, if you have not read The Rook, then you should go ahead and do that now while you put your name in the queue for Stiletto, as I can assure you that it will be difficult to get your hands on a copy of The Rook in a couple of months. If you like The X-Files, Dr. Who, Fringe, or even Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you will be a Daniel O’Malley fan. Very British, very weird, and action-packed. Love it.

PaxPax is the first work by Sara Pennypacker that I didn’t love—and I was even a fan of Summer of the Gypsy Moths, a story of two girls trying to keep a corpse fresh so that they won’t go into foster care. Pax is all covered with starred reviews and is on track to compete for the Newbery Medal next year, but this story of a boy separated from his pet fox had some themes and an underlying worldview that I found uncomfortable.

Peter is being sent to live with his grandmother while his single father goes off to war—right in their area. On the trip to Grandma’s house, the father forces Peter to leave his fox, Pax, in the woods, where he will be in danger, since Peter rescued him as a kit. Thereafter, the story is divided into two parts. One storyline follows Peter, who runs away from his grandmother when he is seized with anxiety over Pax’s safety, and the other narrative shows Pax’s gradual transition from pampered pet to wild fox. Both stories are poignant and thoroughly engaging; the writing is powerful, and all of the main and secondary characters— both human and vulpine— are believable.

However, although the foxes and other creatures in the woods fight with one another, their skirmishes are shown as necessary in order to survive or protect loved ones, which makes it odd that the fox’s name is Pax. The war that Peter’s father is in was never explained, except that it seems to have something to do with water rights. I can imagine justification for such a battle, but that was skimmed over. Another soldier regrets her participation in a previous war, but we do not know the cause or outcome of that conflict. There is no room to explain that humans sometimes fight to protect their loved ones, too. It would be difficult to hand this one to military children. I’m sure that Ms. Pennypacker intended to write a discussable novel about war and peace for children, but she has precluded discussion by showing only one side of the argument, which is unfair to her young readers. While she created some beautiful and memorable characters, her moral categories are too simplistic and may suffer from political correctness. Stick with the glorious “Clementine” series instead.

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Disclaimer: I read advance reader copies of both of these titles. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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Meanwhile, Back on the Right

Miss Manners might say that it is impolite to talk about politics or religion in public, but since most of what I talk about in private is politics and religion, and since these are such extraordinary times, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if I let you know what I will be putting in the mail tomorrow morning.

The Republican party establishment and the anarchist group Anonymous seem to be strange bedfellows, but it’s even stranger to watch a slate of seventeen of the best candidates the Republican party has had in years being boiled down to Donald Trump. When I marveled to my son that I had never actually met a Trump supporter, he replied, “Yes, Mother, that’s because you work in a library.” It’s true that probably most of the people I work with are Clinton supporters, and most of the people I go to church with are probably Cruz supporters. Until last week, I continued to be an ardent, though lonely, Rubio supporter, because he was super-smart, honest, and reflected my values better than anyone else.

Now that he is gone, it would seem natural for me to gravitate to Cruz, and while I would hold my nose and vote for him, he is just not my guy, for reasons that I cannot list without offending a lot of my favorite people. Not that it matters, because Trump is almost impossible to beat at this point. The rioters can riot, and the establishment can contest, but without a full-on revolution, he will win the nomination. And here is the story that the media have missed completely: The strongest group of voters opposed to Trump are traditional conservatives. Not liberals, not the Republican Party establishment. Conservatives.

At the very beginning of the primary season, when everyone thought he didn’t even have a chance, those of us who are people of faith listened to his hateful rhetoric and turned away in disgust. I have no problem voting for someone who does not share my faith if I believe that person is the best qualified, has good values, and will protect my right to religious freedom. I will not vote for someone who spreads hatred toward entire ethnic groups, or spews ignorant, misogynist remarks, or would force American soldiers to murder babies because of their fathers’ sins. Furthermore, it is so obvious that he has no particular position on– or even knowledge of– the many issues facing our nation. He was fine with partial-birth abortion not long ago; I can watch him saying so over and over. Now I’m supposed to believe that he’s pro-life? He has fallen flat on his face so often in the debates when trying to explain his positions, but his supporters don’t seem to notice! When asked about Cuba during the last debate, he danced around it, and then listened to Rubio explain the situation and his solution, after which Trump more or less added, “Yeah. What he said.” I texted my sister, “Look! He just evolved in 30 seconds!” None of this moves his supporters. I don’t understand.

Once his nomination began to look inevitable, the Republican Party and its operatives, such as Sean Hannity, began to announce that all good Republicans should rally ’round the nominee and support Donald Trump. Excuse me? I don’t know about you, but I chose a political party by seeing which one reflected my opinions the best, so that they could put people in office who would enact and enforce laws that I believe are just and right. In other words, I expect them to work for me. And what did I get? Weak, establishment candidates like McCain and Romney. Now I am supposed to support a ridiculous bigot for the good of the party. What has the Republican Party ever done for me? My votes are moral choices for me, and voting for this hateful man would be immoral. I will not do it. And as for the line, “But if you don’t vote for Trump, Hillary will win!” I say, “And?” I do not see Trump as the lesser of two evils, either.

The Republican Party and the media believe that the Evangelical vote went to Trump. I think that the church has a lot of soul-searching to do, particularly the parents who are sending their children to a certain large university, but in my mind, Trump got the “God and country” crowd, those who think that being a Christian and being an American are the same thing. Those who think that sending little children “back” to a place they’ve never seen is somehow consistent with Biblical teaching on compassion toward foreigners and sojourners. However, I go to church and know hundreds of other Christians who do not attend my church, and as I said, I’ve never heard any of them say that they support Trump. Most are openly supporting Ted Cruz.

How surprised the Republican establishment and the media will be when Trump secures the nomination and they hear that giant sucking sound as traditional conservatives pull themselves out of the Republican Party, finally acknowledging that it hasn’t been our home for quite a while. We’ve been used.

I had just been ranting about this to my longsuffering husband when I saw Franklin Graham on television talking about his Decision America movement. I listened cautiously, fully aware of other prominent clergymen’s recent sycophantic falls from grace, but when he started out with, “I am here to announce that I have left the Republican Party…,” I knew he was on to something. He is traveling the country, encouraging the church to repent of the sins of the nation, and he did not feel that he could be considered honest if he had a party affiliation. There’s a movement I can get behind.

So, I did it. I called the Board of Elections with my questions, and then downloaded and filled out the form on their website, and I am leaving the Republican Party. I am now an unaffiliated voter. No rallying ’round required. In North Carolina, I can still vote in primary elections, and I will vote in November for the other important races. I may write in a presidential candidate, as well, but I will never vote for Donald Trump.

I feel so free! Still doomed, yes, but free.

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Sorry about the lack of pictures. I considered a picture of Trump, but I just couldn’t bear it.

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