Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Review of Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Grasshopper Jungle  Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the storyof how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

To make matters worse, Austin's hormones are totally oblivious; they don't care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He's stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it's up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.

(Summary from GoodReads)

The words that ran through my head right after I finished Grasshopper Jungle were “…what did I just read,” but in the best way possible.  Smith’s latest is one of the most bizarre novels I have ever read, both in its content and artistry.

I was immediately drawn into Smith’s novel because of the setting and the characters.  Although Ealing, Iowa is a fictional town, it felt incredibly reminiscent of several real Iowa towns I know, including my own.  Kudos to Smith for getting the setting right.  Austin was funny and sweet and confused, and at times my heart ached as he tried to get through his life.  He talks a lot about genitals and bathroom habits and sex, which could bother some readers, but I appreciated how candidly Smith approached sexuality.

Grasshopper Jungle has a couple of different stories told in varying ways.  We not only hear from Austin himself, but we hear his ancestors and how he records his own history, and we hear about what’s happening with the praying mantises.  These stories tie together, and I’m still thinking about how each arc and its major themes connect, which is a great sign.  My only complaint would be that at times it was a little hard to remember all of the Polish names

Perhaps the best part of this novel is Austin’s relationships with the people in his life.  The relationships are messy and complicated and he doesn’t know how to balance them all.  Even all of the secondary characters are nicely fleshed out and made me think about the themes in this story.

This is a book that I will reread, probably several times, because there is so much to grasp and think about. Grasshopper Jungle is moving and literary and exceptional.   Readers who don’t care for sex and violence won’t enjoy this book, but Grasshopper Jungle belongs in the hands of older YA readers who are confused, who want to talk about masculinity, and who want a book that is like nothing they have ever read before.

Disclosure: I received a digital galley of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review but intend to purchase a hardcover.

Other reviews:
YA Midnight Reads

1 comment:

  1. My digital copy of this was a formatting nightmare, so I just decided to wait for the hardback. Everyone's reviews are crazy intriguing!



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