Antsy Does time
by Neal Shüsterman
In this sequel to The Schwa Was Here, Anthony "Antsy" Bonano—a ninth-grade trouble magnet from Brooklyn, New York—decides to do something special for a terminally ill classmate. Typing it up to look official and legal, Antsy hands Gunnar Ümlaut a month of his life, signed and witnessed. This idea comes to our impulsive narrator after a tragicomic incident at a Thanksgiving Parade leads Gunnar to confide that he has six months to live. What started as a symbolic gesture of friendship, however, soon turns into a schoolwide craze as weeks, months, and even years off the end of people's lives are traded like stocks, used as hard currency, and exchanged as gifts between sweethearts.
Meanwhile, as Ansty grows closer to both Gunnar and his beautiful, eleventh-grade sister Kjersten, things start to unravel around the edges of his plan. Something is just a little off about Kjersten's romantic interest in Antsy. Something is more than a little off about Gunnar's parents, who seem to have problems bigger than their son's fatal disease. Meanwhile, Antsy's blind friend (and ex-girlfriend) Lexie is acting jealous, and the feeling is mutual. After a disastrous double-date, a regularly scheduled kidnapping of Lexie's curmudgeonly grandfather, and an incident at his father's restaurant that brings Antsy citywide notoriety, he is no closer to understanding what is going on with the Ümlauts. When it finally comes to him that Gunnar isn't really dying, it's too late: Antsy is already backed into a corner, with notes for his speech at a school rally crumpled in his sweaty fist. And that, naturally, is the moment when something truly awful happens.
Like his first adventure, Antsy's second captures an elusive blend of laugh-out-loud comedy and heart-moving humanity. The laugh I got out of Antsy's description of his first kiss with Kjersten, early in the book, was so satisfying that I had to call my mother afterward and share it with her. Towards the end, I do not lie, my throat was choked up and my cheeks were moist. You have to respect a storyteller who can lead you through that range of emotions. And you have to love a character like Antsy: a boy both keen-witted and naïve, humble and cocky, honest and kind, whose judgment is frequently off but whose heart is in the right place. I look forward to meeting him again.
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 14+
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