Review: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

“I read somewhere that human beings are genetically predisposed to record history. We believe it will prevent us from doing stupid things in the future… [however] we …manage to keep on doing dumber and dumber shit.”

                                              – Andrew Smith.

About six weeks ago, I was talking with one of the women at work and she suggested that I read Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith.  We were discussing what we thought the biggest book for 2014 would be (except John Green, of course!) and this was one of the possibilities. I am not sure that I agree with her, but it was certainly a VERY interesting read.

I started reading Grasshopper Jungle straight after Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and even though they share the same themes they could not be further apart in their delivery. It was quite a shock to read as it is the first time I have experienced such a graphic and open view on sex in a young adult novel. It walks a very fine line between being honest and being completely vulgar … it’s like Fifty Shades of Grey for teenagers but with grasshoppers… Yes, it’s that weird!!!

As soon as I finished it, I jumped online to find an article or interview that would shed some light on this very strange book. I came across an interview with the author and he said that he never intended for this book to be published. It was just something he was writing for himself. Funnily enough, I actually felt this during the book. There were times when I wondered if what was being written was something that the author would actually say out aloud…

Austin Szerba is quite the protagonist. He is a 15 year-old male obsessed with history and sex who reveals a little too much of the inner workings of the mind of a teenage boy. Sex, sexuality and history are the main themes in this book and Andrew Smith has done a wonderful job of showing how all roads must meet, and all historical events are linked in some way.  Austin is determined to tell his history as honestly as he can, for history is not always recorded in the most truthful way. In his attempt to understand himself, Austin tells us the history of his Polish ancestors at the same time as narrating the story happening in front of us. It all begins with Austin’s confusion regarding his sexuality; he is constantly horny for both his girlfriend and his best male friend Robby. Together they suffer a beating and find themselves on a nighttime excursion to retrieve some missing objects on a shop roof in Grasshopper Jungle, an abandoned shopping centre. There is a kiss and then a discovery that leads to the beginning of the end of humanity. This is where the grasshoppers come in. They are genetically modified, six-foot tall praying mantises who are interested in two things –“they eat and they fuck”. The ‘Unstoppable Soldiers’ also bring about the end of humanity whilst Austin, his girlfriend and Robby hide away in Eden, an underground facility from the 70s designed for the pleasure of its inhabitants (sexually, of course).

I have no idea what I think about Grasshopper Jungle overall, but it will have teens laughing out aloud all over the place. It is not for the faint–hearted; there is plenty of bloodshed, swearing, fondling and other sexual activity. It is one hell of a book!!

And just for a laugh…,28804,2010939_2010938_2010932,00.html


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