Release Date: February 11, 2014
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the storyof 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. (courtesy of Goodreads)
Nearly every review of Grasshopper Jungle describes it in one word: WEIRD. I'm no different. This was one strange book. But strange in a good way.
It's unusual right from the beginning when the first few chapters are written in second person. I believe it's the first time I've ever seen that tense used in a YA novel. It puts the reader on notice that this book is going to be different. I really liked it.
The book switches to first person early on. The remainder of the book is told in a 16 year old boy's stream of consciousness. As you'd expect with a typical teenage boy, nearly all he thinks about is sex. The world is literally ending around him and all he thinks about is sex.
You might think that you don't want to read a book that is mostly sex, sex, bit of plot, sex, sex (not actual sex mostly - just thinking about it). Normally I'd agree. I'd rather not be inside a teenage boy's mind. But give this book a chance. Austin is a hilarious narrator and such an earnest boy that you can't help liking him. Plus, the dialogue is fantastic. I wonder if the author has a background in screenwriting. He has a perfect handle on funny, realistic dialogue.
It's also probably the only novel where man-eating praying mantises are a subplot behind a teenage boy trying to understand his sexuality and whether and why he is in love with his gay best friend Robby and his longtime girlfriend Shann. I found myself rooting for Robby most of the time, because we got to know his character better.
My only significant criticism of this book is the ending. I liked the substance for pure satisfaction. Objectively, however, it was rushed. Far too often, it feels like an author can't figure out how to finish a book so simply cobbles together a half-baked solution. It takes away from what is otherwise a very well-written novel.
If you're looking for a literary YA novel that takes chances with format and insane plot, you'll definitely like this. I wouldn't recommend it if you're easily insulted, but if you go into it with an attitude focused on laughing at the weirdness of a typical teenage boy mind, you'll have a lot of fun. Even better, it is a very quick and easy read.
Rating: 4 / 5
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