Sunday Reflections: A Reflection on Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King (guest post by Bryson McCrone)
Lucky Linderman is not so lucky. His dad can’t get over the fact that his father was drafted into the Vietnam War and never returned. Instead, he cooks. His mom pretends like everything in their lives is fine when it’s not. Instead, she swims. And Lucky is stuck in the middle of their crumbling marriage, hiding the reality that he is not okay. Instead, he dreams.
Lucky’s grandfather is never coming back.
Lucky’s parents’ marriage is on the brink of falling apart.
Lucky was sexually assaulted by a bully in the school bathroom.
At its root, Everybody Sees the Ants is a novel about coping—and coping in a way that can be both beneficial and deteriorating. As Lucky struggles to make it through the war that is high school, he’s hit (literally) with constant reminders of what happened to him because his abuser, Nader McMillan, is still a large part of his life.
This is, naturally, hard for Lucky to deal with. And because he’s scared, he escapes in his dreams to where his grandfather is in Vietnam. In the dense jungles, Lucky’s grandfather teaches him ways to deal with Nader. Still, confronting Nader in real life is terrifying.
This does not mean it is Lucky’s fault.
This does not mean Lucky is a coward.
This does not mean Lucky is weak.
This means that Lucky was a victim of a sexual crime.
What’s so important about this novel is that Lucky, like so many victims of any form of sexual assault, chooses to stay silent. The odds are against him because Nader is a terrifying bully with a pack to back him up, and his father is a lawyer who is quick to denounce any form of accusation against his son. And on top of all this, Lucky has a bunch of family drama he wants to run away from.
Lucky’s choice to stay silent isn’t just to keep what happened from those around him, he tries to stay silent from himself. Doing anything and everything he can to try and forget what happened to him. This is a sad reality because when victims speak out, things change. It’s scary, unpredictable. There is no set reality as to what will happen. I feel that deep down Lucky knows this. He thinks that this will be just another issue on top of everything else.
And yes, silence may seem like the better option in many cases. I have been there. But silence is a strange thing. It can be the best and worst thing at the same time. It can save and it can kill. Since Lucky has no one to go to about what is going on in his life, it all builds up inside him.
Lucky releases the stress by dreaming. The same way I used to cut myself. Or the way someone binges, pulls out their hair, scratches. All of these are coping methods. Does that make them healthy? No. It’s just a way to help us understand the pain we’ve endured.
This is the reality of silence for so many people, Lucky included.
One of the most beautiful things about A.S. King’s writing is her ability to make us think—but her brilliance doesn’t stop there. The challenges characters face in her novels propel conversations forward, involving situations and topics that are often pushed aside. She gets the ball rolling so that the silence can stop, not just with coming forward about abuse when the time is right, but by talking about it openly to make people more receptive and aware.
It’s frequently our knee jerk reaction to want sexual violence victims to disclose their stories. And while it may be true that every survivor who comes forward makes it easier for the next one, it is also equally true that not all survivors are comfortable disclosing or feel that they can. Particularly if perpetrators are those who are family members, for a survivor to come forth, it may cause them to be exiled from their family. Similarly if the perpetrator is someone with a tremendous amount of power/influence, the risks to survivors are great. Also, disclosing to the police may mean the victim goes through additional trauma, fear they won’t be believed, fear they’ll be shamed/humiliated, fear of retraumatization from the rape kit. Every reason we can think of for a survivor to disclose has an equally compelling reason for them not to. In the end, the best thing to do for survivors is to let them make their own decision about disclosure and respect/support them whatever that decision is. – Christa Desir
Meet Our Guest Blogger: Bryson McCrone
Bryson McCrone can usually be found under a large pile of books. He is an avid reader and writer, living in small town SC under the constant watch of his cat. When he isn’t reading or writing, he’s probably singing too loudly in the car, falling down in public, or planning his next literary tattoo. Bryson is represented by Robert Guinsler of Sterling Lord Literistic.
Christa Desir is the author of Faultline and Bleed Like Me, both titles from Simon & Schuster. She is a rape victim advocate and co-moderator of The #SVYALit Project.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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