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Grasshopper Jungle

Grasshopper Jungle

A History

Book - 2014
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Diligently chronicling colorful versions of his family's history, 16-year-old Austin and his best friend, Robby, accidentally trigger a disaster that could potentially destroy humanity by unleashing an army of giant praying mantises on their small hometown, a catastrophe they evaluate from inside an underground bunker.
Publisher: New York, New York : Dutton Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), 2014.
ISBN: 9780525426035
Branch Call Number: YAF SMITH, ANDREW
Characteristics: 388 pages ; 22 cm


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laurendouglass Jan 30, 2019

I'm not quite sure where to start with this review.  It seems unfair to recommend and review a book by first raving about the author's previous novel, but I think that Grasshopper Jungle is unique enough to warrant a bit of back-tracking.

Adam Smith has been writing for years, but the first Smith book I read was Winger, which came out in May of 2013.  This book is beautiful and perfect.  Funny, heartbreaking, and so painfully true at giving voice to Ryan Dean West, the brilliantly awkward yet charming 14 year old rugby player who narrates Winger.

I've been recommending Winger to anything with a pulse that I've had a chance to bump into over the past few months and I already knew that I would be reading the next book that Smith wrote.  So when I saw the advance buzz about Grasshopper Jungle, I placed my hold immediately, even though I knew that the book was about six foot tall insects that destroy the planet.

Yes, if you want to read this book you'll have to be okay with reading about giant, hungry bugs, and no, I'm not talking about giant grasshoppers as a metaphor for humanity's natural desires for destruction and consumption (although Smith deftly weaves that in as well).  Much of the story and plot really is about humongous, genetically modified insects whose only urges are to eat and procreate.

So why does Grasshopper Jungle work, and most importantly, why should those folks who loved Winger at least give it a try?  Because as he does in all his novels, Smith is a master at beautifully revealing the inner lives of teenagers, specifically teenage boys.  Austin, Grasshopper Jungle's main character and most likely the earth's last remaining historian, reveals his humor, his multitude of worries, and his history while figuring out why people in town are disappearing and how to kill an eight foot tall grasshopper that wants to eat your head.  Ultimately, the novel is at its best when Austin struggles with the question, "Is it possible to be in love with two people at once?", and "If you are in love with two people at the same time, what do you do?"

If you've loved any of Smith's previous novels definitely give this one a try.  I think this book is great for all teens, especially those questioning their sexuality, but since there is quite a bit of violence and some drug use, I can also agree with many of the reviewers on Good Reads and who recommend it for grades 9-12.

If you are brand new to the amazing world of Adam Smith, start with Winger, or one of his earlier novels, and then work your way up to Grassphopper Jungle.  Unless you have a thing for giant bugs...

JCLBeckyC Sep 29, 2018

What a wild ride. I don't even know how to describe what this book is about. It's about EVERYTHING. Sex. Adolescence. Armageddon. Sex. Friends. Love. Heroes. Sex. Science Experiments Gone Horribly Wrong. Manhood. Sex. Economic depression. Morality. Bullies. Sex. History. Genealogy. Grasshoppers. And, sex. I highly recommend this brilliant, hilarious book to anyone with the stomach for it. Fans of A. S. King and Kurt Vonnegut will not be disappointed.

Jun 16, 2017

I have read Winger by Andrew Smith and really enjoyed the narration. I was not disappointed by Smith's Grasshopper Jungle.

I loved the frequent philosophical conversations and thoughts that occurred. Also, it wasn't gory, which is nice.

Mar 11, 2017

A brilliant example of what "edgy" YA can be. This book manages to be offbeat and real at the same time, with believable characters, vivid settings, and a compelling plot. It is much more than just a book about an invasion of giant insects - it's a coming of age story, it's an exploration of teen sexuality, it's a meditation on the perils of small-town life. Definitely one of the most memorable young adult novels of recent years.

ArapahoeJanetW Oct 05, 2016

Enjoyed the writers style immensely; quirky and creative. He manages to mix plot line, characterization and irrelevant details in a most engaging way.

Aug 27, 2016

Grasshopper Jungle is a science fiction, apocalyptic, and coming of age novel told from the eyes of a 16-year-old Austin Szerba, the protagonist and the narrator of the story, who also happens to be a historian at times. As Austin tries to overcome his own confusion about his sexuality, he and his best friend also unleash gigantic man-eating praying mantises that hobbies include eat and mate. With Austin’s uncensored way of telling the history of the apocalypse and his Polish ancestors; the explicitness of it sparks humour from time to time. An easy read young adult literature that may require patience for Austin’s method in retelling the history of the new humans. 4/5 - @jackbittle of the Teen Review Board at the Hamilton Public Library

Jul 25, 2016

{SPOILERS...kinda} What an...odd..interesting book. I couldn't stop reading it because I was convinced there would be leading up to this epic..and definite ending. As anticlimactic as the ending was, I didn't feel let down. So I guess that's good? I will warn that while the book is hilarious and at times, thrilling; you'll need a LOT of patience to get through it as Austin is a champion at going on 5 different tangents about the most ridiculous things. Also, on a side note, it's hard to believe that these characters are not smoking something stronger than cigarettes based on the chill way they handle their world being taken over by man-eating grasshoppers.

May 31, 2016

Honestly, what even was the plot of this book? Haha - giant praying mantis apocalypse with really intense world-building and a healthy dose of teenage sexual confusion. I really enjoyed this book, but you can't really like it unless you decide not to take it completely seriously. Also, don't expect the ending to work out or be super satisfying. But it's fun, I promise. And at times really moving, too.

Mar 16, 2016

I agree with a lot of the comments already made. The writing style is pretty interesting - but the repetition gets very annoying (I just started to skip the entire paragraphs that seemed to be included every 3-4 pages). The sexuality confusion came across as truthful and interesting but any "science" doesn't even try to be thought out.

CRRL_CraigG Jun 25, 2015

Austin is brilliantly funny in his matter-of-fact take on the end of the world, but it is not all wisecracks and violence. Even amidst the sarcasm, we find genuine moments of emotion for these teens. They struggle for not only survival, but understanding who they really are.

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Add a Quote
Jun 16, 2017

"Where else would things fall, if not into place? It's not like things are just going to float away. Gravity works."

Jun 13, 2015

"Don't try too hard."

Oct 22, 2014

"I was going to do something I'd never done, and do things I could not understand and never believed existed.

This is history, and this is also the truth."

Oct 22, 2014

". . .Heinreich Fuchs researched in Splugen.

There were a lot of Fuchs in Splugen.

Splugen was full of dumb Fuchs."


Add Age Suitability
Oct 20, 2014

CraigGraziano thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


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LibraryK8 Jun 06, 2014

Behold the history of the end of the world - by Austin Szerba. The end of the world does not start with a bang or a bomb, or an ultimatum from outer space. It begins (and ends) in Ealing, Iowa, in Grasshopper Jungle, the parking lot behind the strip mall containing a pizza place, the liqueur store and the second-hand store. It begins when Austin and his best friend Robby (who is is pretty sure he is in love with) are bullied by the local small-town thugs who will never amount to anything (because they are not bright enough too and because they will shortly die). The fate of the world is sealed when said thugs break into the second-hand store to steal a glowing glass ball. The world is doomed when they break it open and unleash a plague of carnivorous giant insects on the world. Austin records everything (that is not an overstatement) that happens.


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