By Andrew Smith
February 11, 2014
Ages 15 and up
GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE by Andrew Smith is perhaps the most bizarre, alarming and uniquely-crafted book I have ever read. Equal parts disturbing and insightful, it will both disturb you and make you think.
A word of warning: This book is not for those who are easily put off by foul language, topics such as homosexuality, drugs, and other controversial society issues and descriptive depictions of sex and gore. If I were to give this to a young adult to read, that young adult would have to have a good head on their shoulders.
That being said, I have a feeling that GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE will be a big book on the market after it is released. People will talk about this one. It will be so polarizing on many levels. People will either love it or hate it because of the subject matter involved, the way that it is written (in the voice of a very “real” 16 year old boy who is very confused about his place in the world) as well as the outcome of the story.
When it comes to GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE, I fall more on the “love it” side of things. I love that the author holds back absolutely nothing in his writing. I love the sporadic way that the story is told; very frequently the plot is stalled so that the main character can refocus his thoughts and look back in history. While this slows things down a bit, it is necessary 1) in order for the reader to keep their sanity and 2) well, you see, Austin has a responsibility. It’s the end of the world, and his history may be the last history of mankind. So while these horrible mutant grasshoppers begin their attack on earth, we learn about Austin’s ancestors and their involvement in the overall scheme of things. We also learn about his town, those who mock Austin and his best friend Robby, and how they have shaped all things that are going down. We are torn, along with Austin, between a love for a friend and a love for a girl. Sounds confusing? That’s the point. Reading GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE is like jumping into the mind of a hormonal and highly confused teenage boy, sitting down with him and having a very real conversation over a couple of cigarettes. Whether or not you choose to smoke (I wouldn’t), can keep up with the kid, or will even remotely like the conversation, is up to you. It’s the end of the world, do you really have a choice?
I appreciated many of the topics touched upon within this book. Whether or not the author had a specific agenda in mind going in, I really don’t care. But the way he focuses on how each of his characters develops and behaves over the course of the book feels so natural and so very in touch with our modern day society. Be they human or be they huge unstoppable mutant bugs, the parallels between the characters and some figureheads in the real world are so very disturbingly similar. This thought is perhaps is the scariest part of this book: though I don’t actually foresee huge mutant bugs devouring our world, I do see humans acting in similar ways…
- A great read for those looking for an insightful look at LGBT issues and teens.
- Unpredictable, alarming and very suspenseful read in the style of Kurt Vonnegut and Stephen King.
- Not your grandma’s book club read. This is a book for those who like a little extra shock value and off-beat characters.
- Endless repetition. “This was our day.” “This is the truth.” “This is history.” You’ll know what I mean once you read it.
- If bugs aren’t your thing, prepare to have nightmares.
I think that GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE will go down in history as one of the most shocking YA titles to ever hit the shelves. I would be surprised if it doesn’t win a few awards and cannot wait to hear about all the banned book lists it will makes. Schools will be having a field day with this book for years to come.
And I cannot recommend it enough.