Thursday, February 13, 2014

Review: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith


Review: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
Goodreads 
Release date: February 11th, 2014
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (Penguin)
Series: No
Source: ARC from the publisher
Rating: WHAT THE HECK EVEN WAS THAT AND WHY THE HECK DID I LIKE IT I think my brains are on the floor

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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.



The end of the world began at about 2:00 a.m., around three-and-a-half feet away from a discarded floral-print sleeper sofa infested with pubic lice in Ealing, Iowa.

I read a lot of books. The more I read, the easier it is to review them. I become accustomed to formulas. I learn to recognize cues. The elements that go into judging and analyzing a novel are far simpler for me to dissect, because almost all fiction adheres to the same basic roadmaps. I feel quite comfortable driving my readerly car through their bookish towns, following the author's directions, taking notes as I go.

And then Andrew Smith directed me to Ealing, Iowa. And he took away my car and gave me a giant fucking praying mantis to ride and decided to drop a nuclear bomb in my path. And then he cut my parking brakes and decided that maps had no business being here, because here, in the utter drugged-up mindfuck lunacy of Grasshopper Jungle, all the rules go out the window on page one. 

There are things in here: Babies with two heads, insects as big as refrigerators, God, the devil, limbless warriors, rocket ships, sex, diving bells, theft, wars, monsters, internal combustion engines, love, cigarettes, joy, bomb shelters, pizza, and cruelty.




This book is a teenage boy's wet dream written as directed by an indie film director on the worst kinds of drugs. This book is a vintage horror B movie mixed with high literary introspection regarding personal legacy and sexual orientation. This book is hilarious and vile and vulgar. It is the strangest goddamn collection of sentences I have ever encountered. This book has a million things happening, and every single one of them is important. This book is about smalltown America, homophobia, and friendship. This book is about the private inner struggle of a boy in love with both his female girlfriend and his male best friend. It about the global scale of the apocalypse, as led by giant fucking (literally) praying mantises. It is about I don't even know the hell what.

Like, I literally don't even know what a book is anymore. I thought I knew. Now I'm pretty sure they're just pointy paper things with words in there somewhere.



Will you like it? I have no idea. No, I really could not tell you. Austin, our narrator, is both a budding historian, focusing on the minutiae of his own life and family past, and a sexually obsessed teenager who gets turned on by nearly everything. He is thoughtful, crass, incredibly funny, and absolutely the weirdest first person narrator I have ever inhabited. But I cared about him, his girlfriend Shann, and about Robby Brees, while also hoping they'd just become a bisexual threesome already, which is clearly what Austin wants. I really, really, really loved the LGBT aspects of this book, and they are probably where the bulk of my enjoyment stemmed from.

This book pulls no punches on any topic. It's sexual and it's violent and... well, there are giant fucking preying mantises! Literally fucking! And the world ends! And things happen! The whole thing is a careening snowball of ever-expanding lunacy! And I loved it! I don't even know. I didn't think this book would work for me, but it did.There are... oh, possibly twelve other people who will get as big a kick out of this book as I did. The writing is almost as bizarre as the premise, thought it's fascinatingly insightful and laugh-out-loud funny, even if at times it needed a bit of cleaning up or veered towards the oddly formal (sometimes Austin would forgo contractions). You won't recognize the plot or its development as anything resembling anything you've seen before. There are so many elements that it's hard to say whether or not they truly all coalesce by the end.

It's just weird, really, and it's about discovering whether Grasshopper Jungle is your flavor of weird or not.



If you want to give this book a shot, go in forewarned. It's certainly a unique read, and you'll only know you'll like it once you've actually tried and liked it. In fact, it wasn't really until I finished it, and I realized I was laughing and experiencing a surprising amount of feelings, that I came to the definitive conclusion that yes, I enjoyed my breakneck journey through the cracked out masturbation fantasy of a rabbit hole that is Grasshopper Jungle.

Read the first couple of pages, get a feel for the writing, and see if you can stomach its explicitness. It's a book that deserves all the stars for completely being its own insane and insanely creative thing, even though I'm still staring at my ARC of it, all green and pointy on my bedside table, because I'm still not even sure what it is. And I'm half-convinced it will turn into a freaking insect and eat me.


11 comments:

  1. "the cracked out masturbation fantasy of a rabbit hole that is Grasshopper Jungle." Hahaha, right. The pictures tell me enough. I really struggle with books that confuse me like that, so for now, I think I can live without reading this one.

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    1. It's a very particular book, that's for sure! It was my cup of tea, but it may not be yours.

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  2. What. Even. I don't know how to react right now because this sounds so bizarre.

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    1. IT'S SO BIZARRE but it's also kind of fun. It's such a unique reading experience.

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  3. I loved this review! You really captured the spirit of this book so well, this was the strangest book I've read and probably will read. I need Smith to write more books like this!
    -Scott Reads It!

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    1. Thanks! And I agree, I'd love to see Smith do something this insane again!

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  4. Grasshopper Jungle sounds SO WEIRD. Seriously. It seems like a trippy read, one where all these random-sounding elements are tossed in for the ride of a lifetime for the characters (and the reader). I'm not sure I'm going to be reading this one, but reading ABOUT it was definitely entertaining!

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    1. It didn't really scream "Alexa read" to me, but yeah, it is pretty trippy!

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  5. Best. Review. EVER. I had seen this, read the synopsis, gone "the fuck?" and decided to pass on it, figuring it would be as weird and horrible as Metamorphosis (the low point of my high school reading curriculum). Then along came your review to my inbox, and BAM. I MUST READ THIS BOOK. This is the power you have with words, my friend. Use it wisely. (Also I'm already convinced it's going to turn into a bug and at best scuttle away while freaking out my cats, and at worst end up being the size of a cadillac and removing my head with its pincers. Kind of like that monster book of monsters in Harry Potter, only much bigger and greener. SUCH an alarming shade of green.) Side note - I'm curious to know if you read Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland? Because it's a vile book about a truly horrid human being that made me giggle - and kind of hate myself for giggling. It's possible, based on this review, that you might be the other person in the world to enjoy it.

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    1. THANKS! Yayyy, I hoped I'd convince people to give this lunacy a shot!

      Hmm. I haven't read that book, but I'm tempted to check it out now.

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  6. I'm so grossed out by the bugs in this thing. I just don't think I can do it.

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