I’m very excited to kick off A.S. King’s blog tour for her new book Everybody Sees the Ants. It releases today, so you better believe I’m buying myself a finished copy. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Lucky and his story and can’t recommend it enough. (Read my review here.) For my part of the blog tour I interviewed A.S. King about the book.
I’m also holding a giveaway because everyone needs a copy of Everybody Sees the Ants. If you’d like to enter the giveaway, the form is at the end of the interview 🙂 The giveaway ends on October 15th @ midnight EST. US entries only.
- Everybody Sees the Ants has become one of my absolute favorite books. I’ve added it to my classroom library and can’t wait to hear what my students think when they read it. What do you hope readers will gain from reading this novel?
I am so glad you enjoyed it that much! Thank you for saying so and for sharing it with your students. I think the book speaks on different levels to different people. So, I guess I hope it says the right thing to the right person. I also hope that generally, it opens discussion about many subjects. Bullying, war, violence, the genderization of the world and how we divide boys and girls (and men and women) rather than promote healthy humanhood for everyone. J And on a deeper level, I hope it can help some readers realize that you are allowed to teach other people how to treat you by demanding respect. Because respect is the minimum.
- It’s really unique how Lucky interacts with the ants and his P.O.W. grandfather. What inspired you to write these interactions into the story?
I think the book started with the seed of the still-missing POW grandfather and how that can affect an entire family. I’ve always been inspired to write about Vietnam War-related subjects because I’ve been fascinated with the war since I was a kid growing up surrounded by it. Before I wrote ANTS, I’d picked up several books on POW/MIA issues and I became even more fascinated with the families who, to this day, are trying to locate their loved ones or solve the mysteries of their disappearance. It just hit me so hard, the stories of these families who were often blown off or forgotten. It ended up relating, in a small way, to the victims of bullies who are also often blown off and forgotten.
The ants are a bit of a different story! They just arrived, as ants sometimes do. As I revised the novel, they continued to pop up and say the right thing at the right time. In party hats. Armed with Howitzers sometimes. What can I say? I have an active imagination.
- Many YA novels with male protagonists focus on the relationships between the main character and his father. This is part of Lucky’s story, but what made you decide to have him spend so much time with his mother?
Lucky is stuck spending time with his mother because his father is completely distant and has a job that keeps him out of the house for long hours. But both Lucky and his mother are really byproducts of his father’s emotional absence, which is a byproduct of his grandfather’s disappearance in Vietnam. Lori Linderman, Lucky’s mother, tries her best to live inside of a half-life where she is told to ignore every maternal instinct she has in relation to Lucky’s bullying situation, so she also become oddly distant by becoming a squid. Yes I said squid. You have to read the book to understand that part! (Sarah knows what I’m talking about!) Also, if you look at a cross section of American boys, many of them do spend a large portion of their time with their mothers because their fathers are no longer around. So I think this is a pretty normal state of affairs.
- When you were writing Everybody Sees the Ants, did you interview many teenagers who have been bullied? Was any other research involved?
I researched a lot about POWs and the missing from the Vietnam War. I spoke to vets and family members of the missing. I didn’t need to interview kids about bullying because I know too many people who were either dealing with it at the time or have dealt with it in the past. Around the time when I was writing the book, a boy I know was being failed by his school administration and was additionally bullied by an awful principal who shared similar views with the students who were tossing slurs at the boy every day and physically harming him. As someone who personally witnessed similar situations while I was in school (see my essay in DEAR BULLY anthology) this hit home. I am happy to say the boy I’m talking about was removed from the school with the bully principal and is doing well at a new school and since then, a few other students have also left based on the same bigotry. Sadly, the principal is still there.
- If you could give advice to teenagers who are being bullied, what would you say?
This is such a tough question because bullying takes so many forms and each area of the country (and world) has different programs in place to combat bullying. But the first thing I’d say is TALK ABOUT IT. Find someone. Anyone. A parent, a teacher, a counselor, an administrator, a friend, your doctor, the school nurse, a coach, a friend of your family, a sibling, etc. Find someone who will be your advocate, not judge you. Ignore anyone who tells you it’s your fault. Being bullied is not your fault. Being physically harassed is against the law. If you or someone you know is at risk of being harmed by a bully, call your local police or 911. If your school isn’t keeping you safe from bullies, you and/or your parents must talk to the administration. If they fail to do their job, then you can contact the state school department. Several areas have bullying hotlines. And if you or someone you know is feeling suicidal because of bullying, or have even had thoughts about suicide in relation to being bullied, then use this number: 1-800-273-TALK. Also, a great resource for parents, teachers and victims is the Suicide.org page: http://www.suicide.org/bullying-and-suicide-information.html
- What are some of your favorite YA novels this year?
I loved BROOKYLN, BURNING by Steve Brezenoff, I’LL BE THERE by Holly Goldberg Sloan and SCARS by Cheryl Rainfield. I know this was technically a 2010 book, but I was really struck by NOTHING by Janne Teller. Books I can’t wait for: LOSS by Jackie Kessler, DEAD TO YOU by Lisa McMann and BOY 21 by Matthew Quick.
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