In the small town of Ealing, Iowa, Austin and his best friend, Robby, have accidentally unleashed an unstoppable army. Read more...
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In the small town of Ealing, Iowa, Austin and his best friend, Robby, have accidentally unleashed an unstoppable army. An army of horny, hungry, six-foot-tall praying mantises that only want to do two things.
This is the truth. This is history.
It's the end of the world. And nobody knows anything about it.
You know what I mean.
Funny, intense, complex, and brave, "Grasshopper Jungle" brilliantly weaves together everything from testicle-dissolving genetically modified corn to the struggles of recession-era, small-town America in this groundbreaking coming-of-age stunner.
- ISBN-13: 9780525426035
- ISBN-10: 0525426035
- Publisher: Dutton Books
- Publish Date: February 2014
- Page Count: 388
- Reading Level: Ages 14-17
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-11-04
- Reviewer: Staff
Assuming the role of a historian (a wildly obscene historian), 16-year-old Austin Szerba chronicles the end of the world as it begins in his small Iowa town. Austin is in love with two people—his girlfriend, Shann, and his best friend Robby; neither of them is okay with it but, as Austin frequently repeats, “I was so confused.” This confusion worsens when a series of missteps results in the propagation of six-foot tall, superstrong, mantislike Unstoppable Soldiers that portend a new world order on Earth. Sex is everywhere in this novel (only some of it involving humans), but Smith (Winger) describes it in purposefully clinical and utterly unromantic terms, making connections between the Unstoppable Soldiers—who “wanted only to fuck and eat”—and human beings, whose preoccupations aren’t, perhaps, so different. Filled with gonzo black humor, Smith’s outrageous tale makes serious points about scientific research done in the name of patriotism and profit, the intersections between the personal and the global, the weight of history on the present, and the often out-of-control sexuality of 16-year-old boys. Ages 14–up. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Feb.)
Deadly mantis vs. teenager
BookPage Top Pick in Teen Books, February 2014
The end of the world is coming, and it will start in the small town of Ealing, Iowa. While skateboarding and smoking in an abandoned alley they’ve nicknamed Grasshopper Jungle, best friends Austin Szerba and Robby Brees are accosted by neighborhood bullies. After a scuffle, the boys’ shoes and skateboards wind up on the roof of a dilapidated pancake house. When they sneak up to the roof later that night to retrieve their missing items, Austin and Robby have no idea that they’re about to witness a series of events that could result in the end of the human race.
Revealing any more details about the plot twists of this edgy, darkly funny work of magical realism would spoil the fun. Instead, readers—like Austin and Robby—can gradually learn what forces have been unleashed by a combination of teen curiosity, Ealing’s flailing economy and the legacy left behind by the town’s questionable past. As Austin narrates his escapades in hilarious, uncensored language, he also reflects on his family’s Polish ancestry, his confusing romantic attractions and the nature of history itself.
No author writing for teens today can match Andrew Smith’s mastery of the grotesque, the authentic experiences of teenage boys or the way one seamlessly becomes a metaphor for the other. Like Smith’s earlier novel The Marbury Lens, Grasshopper Jungle looks at the senseless violence, intense friendship and palpable sexual energy that come together when the world comes apart. Unlike The Marbury Lens, though, it also includes references to 1970s classic rock, bad science-fiction movies, pink lawn flamingos and—of course—giant, hungry, sex-driven, mutant praying mantises. What more could a reader want from contemporary YA fiction?