“She was short and fat. Check. She was funny and flirty. Check and check. She hadn’t ever touched another human besides through a fiber optic connection. Definite, solid blue check.” Ants tells the story of Natasha, a 19-year-old South Indian teenager, as she navigates through online dating, feelings of displacement, her desi background, insecurities and depression. Afraid of rejection, Nat finds all her men online, in a platform called The Chatroom. There she meets Ben, another lonely teen living three thousand miles away. Although there’s nothing concrete about their relationship, Nat starts idealizing and fantasizing about what it could be – plotting and planning elaborate scenarios. This explorative young adult novel is a tale of two people meeting virtually, exchanging flirty and racy messages, while never seeing the other’s face. Can Natasha, or anyone, truly fall in love with a person they’ve never seen or met?
Plot/Idea: Ants unfolds through flashbacks and changing perspectives, often with little warning or transition, but the author skillfully ties the threads together and uses the novel’s unique setup to draw readers in. The ending leaves plenty of room for imagination, allowing readers space to interpret the protagonist’s outcomes.
Prose: Chinamanthur’s prose is vivid and lyrical, hinting at larger societal themes that run throughout the novel. The writing flows smoothly without disruption, both supporting the storyline and evoking complex thoughts and emotions.
Originality: Ants is an extraordinary take on self-discovery and assurance, wrapping the characters' inner workings and doubts into one sharply defined story.
Character Development/Execution: Natasha has a profound voice that reverberates pain, awareness, and a desperate yearning for belonging, all in relatable and deeply meaningful prose. Her struggle towards self-love will resonate with readers, as will her ability to give them raw, honest glimpses into her psyche.
Date Submitted: August 05, 2022
Plot: Chinamanthur has meticulously described what it is like to try to form relationships and connections in this modern era.The narration is carefully crafted and readers can truly connect to and feel the protagonist’s angsty, confusion, and sadness throughout the story.
Prose/Style: This story is written using very lively, descriptive language to give the reader a clear picture of the main character’s psyche. There are some timeline jumps that are a bit difficult to follow, but overall the story reads almost like journal entries.
Originality: This is a unique take on romance tropes. It feels like a combination of a coming-of-age tale and a love story and a journal, all simultaneously. It does offer a creative look into dating and relationships using modern technology.
Character Development/Execution: The main character could exhibit more growth. She stays fairly consistent, but this story feels more like a snapshot of her life during her early adult years.
Date Submitted: August 05, 2021