Title: Grasshopper Jungle
Author: Andrew Smith
Publication: Dutton Juvenile, an imprint of Penguin Group
Publication Date: February 11, 2014
I found this book on a Kirkus list and thought it sounded intriguing – I was right, but not exactly in the way that I expected. More on that in just a second.
But first, a brief summary from the author’s website:
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.
The Kirkus list I found this book on stated that it was science fiction for ages 14 and up. For me personally, reading this book at 22, I couldn’t imagine actual high schoolers reading it and being comfortable. There is a lot – and I mean a lot – of age-inappropriate language and activity in this book. “Shit” and “horny” and “sperm” are probably the top three most commonly used words in the story. It was incredibly off-putting. So as a future educator, this is definitely not a book I’d want to have in my classroom or keep in my library.
That being said, it was a fairly entertaining story. Set in a small town in Iowa, Austin, along with his best friend Robby and his girlfriend Shann, are witnesses to the accidental end of the world, in the form of Unstoppable Soldiers – giant, un-killable bugs that begin hatching from citizens in town, before eating everything and everyone. Austin is in love with Shann and Robby equally, which only heightens his sense of personal confusion and stress while trying to deal with the world being overrun by mutants.
The characters are fabulously well-rounded and complex. However, there are way too many of them. The premise of the book is that it’s a history of the town, and the apocalypse, written by Austin after the fact. Because of this format, he spends a copious amount of time explaining what each and every person in town was doing at exact moments during the ending of the world. He also jumps back in time and talks about what his ancestors were doing, and the creators of the Unstoppable Soldiers, and a multitude of other people that I really didn’t care about. It makes the story hard to follow because there’s so many people to keep track of.
This book took me ages to read because I could only handle it in small segments. Once I got into it, it wasn’t so bad, but I was struggling at first. I can appreciate the craft – it’s certainly well-written and unlike anything else I’ve ever read. But at the same time, it was just not for me.
2 out of 5 stars.