Synopsis from Goodreads
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.
It’s not often you find a book that’s all about “carpet burns and sex” but here it is.
Actually, I’m just joking… this book isn’t all about that at all. I just really liked the quote and figured there’s no way I could incorporate it into my review. Even with my ridiculous rambling.
I’ve loved Andrew Smith’s books ever since I read Stick many moons ago. I’m not sure what it is with me, but I seem to struggle with contemporary YA from the US (of course, of course there are exceptions as there always is with sweeping statements like this one) but there’s something about Smith’s stories and characters that really click with me.
When I read Stick (and then In the Path of Falling Objects which is equally as brilliant, maybe more so), not many of my friends or the blogs I read had reviewed any of his books. Now that seems to have changed with my timeline inundated with praise and reviews for Winger (funnily enough, I’ve not actually read it but I’ve been told it will be published in UK soon).
I think the best thing about Andrew Smith’s books is that I’ve still got a few to read. There’s nothing worse than reading the last book of one of your favourite authors…
Anywhoo, this book looked a lot different than Smith’s previous work. Firstly, the cover was neon. Neon and clashed with my nails (hot pink, if you’re wondering)/ His other covers are moody with dark colours. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it definitely made me pause. And secondly, it seemed like it was science fiction, a genre that I would usually cross the road to avoid.
But I needn’t have worried.
This is one of those glorious books that don’t seem to fit into a genre. Is it science fiction? There are six foot grasshoppers in this book so yeah… I guess. Is it contemporary? This story is pretty much about friendship, finding your own place and working out how the hell you’re supposed to survive being a teenager so… yeah. Is it historical? This is probably a bit more vague but I especially loved the history of Austin’s family and their journey to America.
So, possibly, it could be any of them.
I’m claiming it as contemporary because I think the contemporary issues were the things I connected with the most.
Whereas I think I’d prefer my contemporary books without the six foot grasshoppers, I did like the science fiction-y aspect of this book. Sure there were some bits that I glazed over at, but that’s not to do with the way it was written or, in fact, what was written but… ok, I just loved Robby and wanted to see what he was up to, OK?! God.
The whole style of this book was great. It was funny, clever and oddly informative. I adored the repetitious bits that other readers might not like. It was like being with your best mate and giggling over a really convoluted private joke that no one else gets.
But as always with Smith’s stories, it’s the characters that made this book into what it was. I’ve always said I’m a Character Girl instead of a Story Girl. If the characters are engaging, well thought out and, in the case of Smith’s lads, hilarious, I’d quite happily read a book with them waiting for a bus then going on an adventurous romp through an exciting world with two boring sods.
Maybe that’s just me.
Austin was a great narrator; funny, observant and so self-deprecating he’d put some of us Brits to shame. I think with a book like this, one that has a bit of a weird story, you need a narrator who’s regular and not special and different. And his interactions with his two best friends were ace too. I was torn between wanting to know more about Shann and forcing Robby to be my best friend.
And Smith’s really good at writing secondary characters. I’m 79% sure that I’m going to draft a letter to him asking to write a book about Ingrid: The Dog Who Doesn’t Bark.
So although I probably enjoyed Stick and ItPoFO a little bit more, Grasshopper Jungle was still a really enjoyable book. A bit of a weird story, one where I’m still not 100% sure I understood what happened, but still with fantastic story, the brilliant writing and the unforgettable characters you’d come to expect from an Andrew Smith book.
So I think you should read this book.
It is a good idea.
I received a copy of Grasshopper Jungle from Egmont UK in exchange for an honest review.