Sunday, June 22, 2014

GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE, by Andrew Smith

Smith, Andrew. (2014). Grasshopper Jungle.
Grasshopper Jungle

Summary (*there is a big spoiler here, if you have no idea what this book is about...):

Grasshopper Jungle is about a 15 year old boy named Austin, his awesome gay best friend (who Austin loves) and his girlfriend Shann, (who Austin also loves.)  It’s a story about growing up and being sexually confused.  But it’s also a science fiction horror story about giant bugs destroying most of humanity.  It’s an interesting combination that I didn’t see coming.  I got the ebook, based on a positive “get it now” kind of review at the TLA convention, but I couldn’t remember WHY they said it was so good, and I didn't read any jacket flap due to the ebook situation.  And it reads, very much, like Catcher in the Rye.  Until the science fiction moment happens.  And the horror. 

Analysis:

Grasshopper Jungle is getting all kinds of attention from librarians and book reviewers.  I expect it will win many awards.  I just finished it and while I didn’t love it personally, I can see why the writing style is so arresting to people, and why there is a buzz about it.  

Speaking of buzzing, I will warn you that if you have a phobia of insects, this might not be the book for you.  Don’t do as I did—read a blurb or something first.  I thought this was a contemporary realistic book, even though on page 2, it mentions human-sized insects.  I thought the narrator was unreliable or perhaps exaggerating.  No.

“Grasshopper Jungle is a rollicking tale that is simultaneously creepy and hilarious. It’s propulsive plot would be delightful enough on its own, but Smith’s ability to blend teenage drama into a bug invasion is a literary joy to behold… Smith may have intended this novel for young adults, but his technique reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut’s in “Slaughterhouse Five,” in the best sense.” New York Times Book Review

And I bet it'll be one of the most challenged books this year, too.  It's like Andrew Smith decided to include everything possible except call Jesus Christ a liar in order to get banned.  Of course, I'm sure that wasn't his motivation, but the end result will be the same.

Homosexual attraction?  Check. Boys kissing?  Check.  Guy thinking about sex all the time?  Check.  Thinking about a threesome all the time? Check.  Thinking about having sex with the girlfriend, friend’s mom, random town woman?  Check.  Sexual intercourse? Check.  Teens smoking? Check. Having weird science fiction human-sized insects burst out of human bodies mid-way through the book, tearing people's heads off?  Check.  End of humanity as we know it?  Check.  More cusswords than you can shake a stick at?  Check.  

It's Catcher in the Rye meets Aliens.

To be clear, none of those things listed above are the reason I didn't love the book.  I liked it.  I just wanted a different ending.  It's just a personal preference, as are all book reviews in the end.  

The writing style is unique and interesting, but if you don’t like science fiction or horror, or if you have a issues with curse words or words related to sex and sexual attraction, then this won’t be the book for you. 

By the way, apparently, Sony Pictures has acquired it. 

It's funny, profane, wildly bizarre and yet, when you get down to it, it's still a rawly honest portrayal of a 15 year old boy in a small town in extraordinary circumstances.  

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