Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Book Review: "Grasshopper Jungle" by Andrew Smith

I would have never believed that a book could appeal to the 14-year-old boy inside of me while also having a lot of heart, until I read Andrew Smith's Grasshopper Jungle. This is a crazy, puerile yet utterly enjoyable book which honestly surprised me.

Sixteen-year-old best friends Robby Brees and Austin Szerba are growing up in the small town of Ealing, Iowa. There isn't much to do, so the boys mostly skateboard and smoke copious amounts of cigarettes. Robby is gay; Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, as well as Robby, and that's difficult on all of them, especially considering that nearly everything in the world makes Austin horny.

They start to notice weird things around town—Shann hears a constant ticking noise behind the walls of the new house her family has moved into (a house that originally belonged to her late uncle, who was a scientist, inventor, and entrepreneur in Ealing) and the boys discover the noise is from an antique teletype machine, constantly repeating a warning message that doesn't make sense. And then they stumble upon an underground shelter that is unlike anything they've ever seen, built to protect people from an unimaginable disaster.

But that disaster is no longer imaginable, as the town suddenly is struck by a plague which turns those it comes in contact with into six-foot-tall praying mantis-type insects with insatiable appetites for two things—food and sex. As Robby and Austin discover how this plague came to be, they realize that the future of the human race may depend on them and few additional people, and they figure out how to defeat the insects. But it's a messy (and dangerous) proposition.

Grasshopper Jungle is zany and tremendously entertaining, but as much as Smith's characters like to say "Uh" a lot, and there's a lot of talk of sperm, and balls, and horniness, at its heart this book is about the beauty of friendship and trying to be comfortable with who you are. It's also a book about how our histories—no matter how bizarre—affect our lives and our futures.

This is definitely not a book for everyone, but if you are in the mood for a crazy but sweet story and aren't phased in the least by horny, hungry, six-foot-tall praying mantises, or if your inner teenager is looking for a fun read, you'll definitely enjoy this.

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