Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release Date: February 2014
Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of 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.
Comments: Definitely a peculiar one. Not for me. I didn’t particularly care for it. I thought the premise was interesting and the ways the book was written was engaging but overall I just felt very indifferent. After reading the book, I read the back cover’s praises and read words such as “dark humor” and what not and I raised my brows at the description. I guess the stuff inside the book could be considered humor. I have dark humor. Very dark. Morbid. This book doesn’t have that kind of “dark humor.” I tried to grasp where this humor was…. and only could think of all the sexual descriptions as humor. Maybe? The humor went over my head. I think some may call the humor “juvenile.” (Though I think this is an unfair description.)
On that note, this book is graphic in bodily fluids. It’s very straightforward in describing said fluids… multiple times and repeatedly. Just a warning for those who don’t like that kind of stuff. I was not bothered by it. It gave this weird characterization to Austin our main character. There is swearing. Many times. And this isn’t a PG 13 book either (if it was a movie). All warnings to those who don’t particularly enjoy these types of books. But again I was not bothered by it. I felt it gave a voice to Austin. Though if Austin was a real person – I don’t think I would be his friend. Not that I disliked him… the gears in his head functions differently from mine, making our personalities incompatible.
I did however greatly enjoyed all the back story along the way. The histories of Austin’s prior familial generations gave a deeper depth to his character. They interwove with each other and juxtaposed against Austin’s current life really well, making the story compelling to me. What Austin chose to unveil about his family said many things about Austin himself as a person.
The omniscient first person perspective. Austin knew things he couldn’t possibly knew and told readers about them. It was a weird method of storytelling that Smith choose but in some ways it worked (storytelling about family + some events out of Austin’s current vicinity) and in others it didn’t (what was happening to the towns folks in the other side of the city).
The science fiction: these grasshoppers ate human beings and in one instance ate a dog. They only like to do two things: eat and mate. And yet at the end of the world – wild life is blossoming, herds of deer and bison roam free. Didn’t quite add up to me. Some of the details in how some people were infected when there wasn’t any explanation of how they came into contact with the “stuff” were also questionable. It couldn’t be airborne as then the whole town would be dead or no longer human, including our narrator.
Overall, despite the compelling nature of the book, it just didn’t speak to me. Not for me. Meh.
(Covers are hyper-linked to their Goodreads’ page.)
Noggin by John Corey Whaley
Why the Recommendation: The weird sci-fi story. Grasshopper Jungle was strange, in delivery and context. Noggin’s premise is pretty strange itself. If you like weird, give this book a try.
The Compound by S.A. Bodeen
Why the Recommendation: Both books are post apocalyptic in nature – to a degree or another. And this one also has a weird premise. You like strange end of the world book, read this one too.
(I’ve come to realize…. I need to read more and more broadly, as I am having a hard time finding read-a-likes! Sooooo many books! Soooo little time!)