Title: Grasshopper JungleAuthor: Andrew SmithPublisher: Dutton Juvenile/PenguinPub. Date: February 11, 2014Genre: Young AdultRec. Age Level: 14+
Austin Szerba has enough to deal with without adding an unstoppable army of six-foot-tall praying mantises to the mix: he's conflicted about his sexuality, thinks about sex constantly, and struggles to find his place in his small, religious Midwestern town. A self-appointed historian, Austin chronicles the present and the past... He's devoted to telling the truth, no matter how messy, confusing, or painful, so, with the likely end of the world approaching, it falls on Austin to find pull the threads of past and present together, recording seemingly random events that, together, lead to the rise of an army of hungry, horny unstoppable six-foot-tall praying mantises and the fall of man.
Grasshopper Jungle is many things: abrasive, real, shocking, entertaining, hopeful, funny, sad. I think though, most of all, it's truthful. Behind the giant praying mantises, scientific experiments, and weird underground cults, there are so many important, very real truths within its pages... Big truths about identity, love, life, sexuality, religion, and science. It's clear, just from the description, that what Andrew Smith has written won't be for every reader, but for some it will be just the book they've been waiting for... the book that changes everything.
As a Polish girl who grew up in a small, religious Midwestern town, Austin is in some ways my male equivalent. Though we have distinct differences, the fact that Austin and I have very similar origins intrigued me and allowed me to identify with this story in a memorable, emotional way. In ways, I wasn’t at all surprised by what happened within Grasshopper Jungle… I mean, the end of the world being caused by prejudice, backwards thinking, man trying to play God, and judgment passed while clinging to religion doesn’t seem all that far-fetched to me.
While there are many things that I’d like to say about Grasshopper Jungle, it’s a hard book to write about… there are so many elements and so many big ideas that, to really write about it, I feel like I’d have to write pages and pages. So, instead, I’m going to tell you to go read it. Then have a friend read it. And then sit down and talk about it for hours because there’s plenty to talk about here… things that should be talked about. Sure, it looks like a simple story about horny, constantly hungry praying mantises (and teenage boys), but it’s also about life… the world… you and me and them and us. It’s about everything.