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Chance reviews… Grasshopper Jungle

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Grasshopper Jungle

Published: 2014

Age Range: 15+

Genre: Science Fiction

Awards: 2015 Michael L. Printz Honor Book Winner

Chance read Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith and this is what he thought…

High school sophomore Austin Szerba copes with confusion about his sexual identity alongside an outbreak of giant praying-mantis creatures that eat people in his small Iowa town. Austin has an overwhelming desire to make sense of the non-sensical. He attempts to connect dots between his Polish ancestors and the modern-day sci-fi apocalypse that is beginning to erupt in his town. He seeks to give order to chaos. The stream-of-consciousness first-person narrative style kept me at arm’s length emotionally — which is exactly what a 15-year-old boy would want. I felt frustrated at the looping narrative style and began to feel tired of it about halfway through.

My favorite scene is when Austin and his best friend, Robbie, break into a consignment shop and witness a weird scientific pod being stolen by a gang of school bullies. Unbeknownst to anyone, this pod will unleash a race of mutants upon the earth and change the course of human history. The sci-fi scenes are well-written and give the otherwise meandering story a focus. If I could change anything about this book, then at the risk of ruining the unique voice of the protagonist, I would tighten up the story. This book could be written in about half the length and not lose much. The book’s main theme is identity. Austin is trying to sort out his own sexual identity. Who does he love more — his girlfriend or his male best friend? On top of this, the carnivorous, promiscuous alien insects serve as a perfect metaphor for out-of-control teen hormones.

Who would you recommend this book to?

Teens looking for gonzo weird reads or anyone who remembers the TV show Lost and wants to read another story about mysterious hatches and pseudo-scientific communes from the 1960s. Grasshopper Jungle is a unique story that will not be for every taste.


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