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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Electric Monkey (27 Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405273410
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405273411
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 137,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Els De Clercq on 27 Feb 2014
Format: Paperback
I could say that Grasshopper Jungle made me think of Mal Peet’s Life: An Exploded Diagram. I could say, that yes, there are echoes of Kurt Vonnegut. I could also say that if Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams and Terry Gilliam ever thought about collaborating, they should give Andrew Smith a call. I could even say that if this doesn’t win the Printz next year, I’m going to use Pulse-O-Matic® showerheads on the Printz committee in ways they never thought possible. But I’m not going to. Because I am bigger than that. And that is the truth.

Grasshopper Jungle is all Andrew Smith. In the acknowledgements of the book, Smith writes that he has been writing all his life, even when he never considered the idea of publication. He also writes that about two years ago he decided to stop writing – meaning: being in the business of writing, the actual writing of course, was not something he was about to stop. He goes on to say:

“I never felt so free as when I wrote things that I believed nobody would ever see. Grasshopper Jungle was one of those things.”

Grasshopper Jungle and Andrew Smith are why I don’t believe in book packagers or in all those so-called creative writing classes and programs. I don’t think you can learn how to be(come) a writer. Sure, they can teach you some of the more technical things like writing arcs, and they can maybe even show you a few neat tricks with point of view and what have you, but they cannot teach you “how to be a writer”. You are a writer. And writers will write.

Also, if this were a film class, Andrew Smith would be an auteur – ‘author’ – whose creative voice infuses his entire body of work. What is Andrew Smith’s creative voice, I hear you ask? Balls, I tell you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Miranda Smith on 21 April 2014
Format: Paperback
Originally posted at [...]
Normally when reading a book, there is one recurring theme running through my head the entire time. This time was no different. However, unlike other times I have read books, the thoughts that were running through my heads were somewhere along the lines of: "What the heck am I reading?, "This is so weird!" or "Ew, that's gross!"

Grasshopper Jungle, if you haven't read it is quite possibly the strangest, most original and hauntingly compelling piece of end-of-the-world-fiction that I have ever laid eyes on. While most apocalypse fiction adheres to the same set of strict morals and gore fests, Grasshopper Jungle swerves completely away from that, creating a whole new era of Armageddon storytelling. Most novels, for me are now completely predictable, I can easily spot overused element or subtle cues that tell me that something is about to happen.

However with Grasshopper Jungle, I was taken completely and utterly by surprise. It starts with a killer of a hook and draws you in to the weird, gruesome and very horny world of sexually confused Austin, his gay best friend Robby Brees and his girlfriend Shann as they navigate a scary new apocalyptic world, slowly being overrun by giant praying mantises.

Andrew Smith has created a horrifying, yet oddly satisfying world of two headed babies, penises in a jar, giant grasshoppers, germs that turn people into hungry/horny/murderous insects, sexual confusion, horny teenagers, horny adults, strange psychopathic men that grow weird things in jars using their own semen, underground silos and just a general sense of complete, unmitigated bat poop craziness!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 95 reviews
27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
The Weirdest Apocalypse You'll Ever Read 18 Jan 2014
By Ken C. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Um..."

This is a book featuring two 15-year-old boys who are best friends, cigarette demons, and kids prone to saying "Uh..." and "Um..." a lot. Robby is gay. Austin is confused. Shann, the all-Iowan girl next door, is Austin's love interest. While all that is going on, the world is ending. But of course.

Andrew Smith's Apocalypse Now is set in Ealing, Iowa, where a now-deceased scientist's mad experiments gain new life when thugs steal and drop a ball of glowing liquid that feeds on spilled blood (Robby's) and creates 6-foot-tall killer praying mantises. But of course. Robby and Austin discover an underground bunker from the 70s that unlocks a lot of secrets about these "Unstoppable Soldiers," as the mantises are called.

"Um...."

The strength of the novel lies in its plot, really. Praying mantises make wonderful "here-we-go-a-preying" mantises, and stopping them is no small task. Readers will get caught up in the action as humans go mano a buggo against the green beasties. But the characterization and voice are stellar, too. First-person Austin really gets you inside the head of a confused kid who has strong feelings for both his best friend and his girlfriend.

The one weakness may bother some readers more, others less, and still others not at all. Lots of repetition here. Like with the "Uh's..." and the "Um's..." and the "Unstoppable This's" and "Unstoppable That's." Oh. And certain favored profanities. The book reads like an Adam Sandler movie in its way, luxuriating in bathroom talk, sex talk, and swearing. What can I say -- one reader's real life is another reader's gratuitous. Fine for high school and up, but middle school libraries will wisely, um, take a pass.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Shocking, Insightful... 23 Feb 2014
By Jenna Detrapani - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE by Andrew Smith is perhaps the most bizarre, alarming and uniquely-crafted book I have ever read. Equal parts disturbing and insightful, it will both disturb you and make you think.

A word of warning: This book is not for those who are easily put off by foul language, topics such as homosexuality, drugs, and other controversial society issues and descriptive depictions of sex and gore. If I were to give this to a young adult to read, that young adult would have to have a good head on their shoulders.

That being said, I have a feeling that GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE will be a big book on the market after it is released. People will talk about this one. It will be so polarizing on many levels. People will either love it or hate it because of the subject matter involved, the way that it is written (in the voice of a very “real” 16 year old boy who is very confused about his place in the world) as well as the outcome of the story.

When it comes to GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE, I fall more on the “love it” side of things. I love that the author holds back absolutely nothing in his writing. I love the sporadic way that the story is told; very frequently the plot is stalled so that the main character can refocus his thoughts and look back in history. While this slows things down a bit, it is necessary 1) in order for the reader to keep their sanity and 2) well, you see, Austin has a responsibility. It’s the end of the world, and his history may be the last history of mankind. So while these horrible mutant grasshoppers begin their attack on earth, we learn about Austin’s ancestors and their involvement in the overall scheme of things. We also learn about his town, those who mock Austin and his best friend Robby, and how they have shaped all things that are going down. We are torn, along with Austin, between a love for a friend and a love for a girl. Sounds confusing? That’s the point. Reading GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE is like jumping into the mind of a hormonal and highly confused teenage boy, sitting down with him and having a very real conversation over a couple of cigarettes. Whether or not you choose to smoke (I wouldn’t), can keep up with the kid, or will even remotely like the conversation, is up to you. It’s the end of the world, do you really have a choice?

I appreciated many of the topics touched upon within this book. Whether or not the author had a specific agenda in mind going in, I really don’t care. But the way he focuses on how each of his characters develops and behaves over the course of the book feels so natural and so very in touch with our modern day society. Be they human or be they huge unstoppable mutant bugs, the parallels between the characters and some figureheads in the real world are so very disturbingly similar. This thought is perhaps is the scariest part of this book: though I don’t actually foresee huge mutant bugs devouring our world, I do see humans acting in similar ways…

Pros:

+ A great read for those looking for an insightful look at LGBT issues and teens.
+ Unpredictable, alarming and very suspenseful read in the style of Kurt Vonnegut and Stephen King.
+ Not your grandma’s book club read. This is a book for those who like a little extra shock value and off-beat characters.

Cons:

- Endless repetition. “This was our day.” “This is the truth.” “This is history.” You’ll know what I mean once you read it.
- If bugs aren’t your thing, prepare to have nightmares.

I think that GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE will go down in history as one of the most shocking YA titles to ever hit the shelves. I would be surprised if it doesn’t win a few awards and cannot wait to hear about all the banned book lists it will makes. Schools will be having a field day with this book for years to come.

And I cannot recommend it enough.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Unstoppable giant mantises + unstoppable teen hormones = Unstoppable great read 1 May 2014
By Whitt Patrick Pond - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Andrew Smith's Grasshopper Jungle is difficult to describe and even more difficult to put down once you start reading it. What it is though is one of the best and most unique things I've read in years. One part teen coming-of-age story, one part gonzo narrative social history, and one part sci-fi end-of-the-world B-movie, complete with mad scientists, secret projects, giant insects and a survival bunker. All that, and it's also got a wickedly dry sense of humor running all through it.

This is the first book I have read by Andrew Smith, so I cannot make a comment on his writing style in general, though if Grasshopper Jungle is in any way indicative of what to expect, I will definitely be reading his other work. The style in Grasshopper Jungle is reminiscent of a number of diverse and unconventional authors, from J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye to Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club with a good dose of Hunter S. Thompson mixed in for good measure. It's considered a Young Adult read, but it's so much more than that.

The story is told by Austin Szerba, a sixteen-year-old boy growing up in Ealing, Iowa, a small town that is slowly dying due to its main employer closing the factory and transferring all the jobs overseas. Austin's absolute best friend is a boy named Robby Brees, who happens to be gay. Austin's girlfriend is a girl named Shann Collins, whom he constantly dreams about having sex with. And Austin loves them both... and is feeling very, very confused. And as if this angsty teen triangle isn't enough for Austin to have to deal with, the world is coming to an end. Except that, as Austin says, "Nobody knew anything about it."

Smith's style is very subtle but quickly draws you in, and you get Austin's distinctive narrative voice coming at you very clearly from the opening prologue:

"-I read somewhere that human beings are genetically predisposed to record history.
--We believe it will prevent us from doing stupid things in the future.
--But even though we dutifully archived elaborate records of everything we've ever done, we also managed to keep on doing dumber and dumber s***.
--This is my history.
--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.
--Just like it's always been."

All of the characters in Grasshopper Jungle are vividly drawn, in no small part because Smith put a lot of thought into their individual backgrounds and into giving them distinct personalities. A lot of this comes through in Austin's obsessions with history, with finding connections in everything, and with telling the truth, recording everything in spiral notebooks, piles of which he keeps in his bedroom closet.

"-Shann and I started going out with each other in seventh grade.
--When I think about it, a lot of stuff happened to us that year.
--There are nine filled, double-sided-paged volumes of Austin Szerba's Unexpurgated History of Ealing, Iowa for that year alone.
--That year, Eric went into the Marines and left me at home, brotherless, with our dog named Ingrid, a rusty golden retriever with a real dynamo of an excretory tract.
--People in Ealing use expressions like real dynamo whenever something moves faster than a growing stalk of corn.
--It was also the same year Robby's dad went to Guatemala to film a documentary about a volcanic eruption. Lots of stuff erupted that year, because Mr. Brees met a woman, got her pregnant, and expatriated to Guatemala.
--And, just like a lot of boys in seventh grade, I started erupting quite frequently then, too.
--A real dynamo.
--And, that year Shannon Collins's mom move to Ealing, enrolled her daughter at Curtis Crane Lutheran Academy (where we were all good, non-smoking, non-erupting Christians), and married Johnny McKeon, the owner of From Attic to Seller Consignment Store and Tipsy Cricket Liquors.
--And I fell in love with Shann Collins.
--It was a very confusing time. Id didn't realize then, in seventh grade as I was, that the time, and the eruptions, and everything else that happened to me would only keep getting more and more confusing through grades 8, 9, and 10.
--I will tell you how it was I managed to get Shann Collins to fall in love with me too: My best friend, Robby Brees, taught me how to dance.
--I was infatuated with Shann from the moment I saw her. But, being the new kid at school, and new in Ealing, Shann kept pretty much to herself, especially when it came to such things as eruptive, real dynamo, horny thirteen-year-old boys
--Robby noticed how deeply smitten I was by Shann, so he selflessly taught me how to dance, just in time for the Curtis Crane Lutheran Academy End-of-Year Mixed-Gender Mixer. Normally, genders were not something thata were permitted to mix at Curtis Crane Lutheran Academy.
--So I went over to Robby's apartment every night for two and a half weeks, and we played vinyl records in his room and he taught me how to dance. This was just after Robby and his mother had to move out of their house and into the Del Vista Arms.
--Robby was always the best dancer of any guy I ever knew, and girls like Shann love boys who can dance.
--History does show that boys who dance are far more likely to pass along their genes than boys who don't.
--Boys who dance are genetic volcanoes.
--It made me feel confused, though, dancing alone with Robby in his bedroom, because it was kind of, well, fun and exceptional, in the same way that smoking cigarettes made me feel horny....
--That year, at the end of seventh grade, Robby confessed that he'd rather dance with me than with any girl. He didn't just mean dance. It was very confusing to me. It made me wonder more about myself, whom I doubted, than about Robby, whom I suppose I love.
--At first, I thought Robby would grow out of it -- you know, start erupting like everyone else.
--But there was nothing wrong with Robby's volcano, and he never did grow out of it.
--So it was at the Curtis Crane Lutheran Academy End-of-Year Mixed-Gender Mixer that Robby casually and bravely walked up to the new girl, Shann Collins, and announced to her:
--"My friend Austin Szerba is shy. That's him over there. He is good-looking, don't you think? He's also a nice guy, he writes poetry, he's a really fantastic dancer. He would like very much if you would agree to dance with him."
--And everything, confusing as it was, worked out beautifully for me and Shann and Robby after that."

But it's not all angsty teen triangle and social history. There is, as I said, a scifi B-movie end-of-the-world scenario going on which is related in Austin's delightfully quirky narrative voice:

"Picture this if you can:
--Robby Brees and I, wearing fur-covered, full-head grimacing lemur masks that helped identify Unstoppables, smoking cigarettes and dressed in matching form-fitting blue-and-white Eden Project jumpsuits, as we carried fully automatic paintball rifles slung over our shoulders. And we were accompanied by a sixty-pound golden retriever that could not bark.
--If we had thought everything out more clearly, we probably would have anticipated the likelihood of being fired upon by _real_ guns and _real_ bullets from my next-door neighbors, Earl Elgin and his teenage son, whose name was Earl Elgin, Jr.
-- Earl Elgin Jr. was fifteen years old; a redheaded Lutheran boy who attended Curtis Crane Lutheran Academy, and fortunately for me and Robby, he and his father were both terrible shots. There were especially terrible shots because they were scared out of their minds after enduring a night-long rampage of six-foot-tall praying mantis beasts with spike-armed claws. And now they had come face-to-face with what they believed could only be alien invader rat boys from Mars....
--"Stay right there and don't move, you mother[expletive]ing rat boys from Mars," Earl Elgin Sr. said.
--He nervously pointed his emptied assault rifle directly at my belly.
--"Dad, we caught us some alien rat f[expletive]s from outer space," EJ added. "Let's shoot them in the balls."
--"Uh," Robby said.
--Both of us had our hands raised in the intergalactic gesture of Please Do Not Shoot Us In The Balls.

All in all, Grasshopper Jungle is a fun, engaging read and totally unlike anything you're likely to have read in years. Highly, highly recommended.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Review by Addison at: ofspectaclesandbooks.com! 9 Mar 2014
By Addison @ Of Spectacles and Books - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Why I chose this book:
There was a lot of buzz surrounding this book before its release. Two boys falling in love during a grasshopper apocalypse? What author could pull off such a bizarre story and make it good? The questions rumbled across the internet as the release date loomed further. One of my goals this year was to try and read more LGBTQ lit, and this book piqued my curiosity as well as helped me achieve my goal.

Synopsis:
Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of 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.

3 Things You Need to Know:

1. You will love this book or hate it. No in-between. This book is so blatantly absurd, offensive, and sexual that it is a love it or hate it type of book. I rarely get offended in books and a few lines even made me raise my eyebrows. The “I don’t care” attitude that is heavy throughout the book is reflected in the male protagonist Austin. While Austin is a teenage boy, he is introspective to the point of selfishness and documents every minute of his life. You, as the reader, either love him or hate him.
I enjoyed the character of Austin, because despite his attempts to do the right thing, he still could not settle his indecisive heart. Austin is a boy that does not filter his thoughts. I also enjoyed that Austin sees life through the filter of sex, rather than the other way around. Truly a teenage boy through and through. Smith highlights teenage love in a very no-frills and realistic way, making the dreaminess of it all go to the wayside.

2. The writing style is glorious and wordy. Initially, I was enchanted by the wordy, overarching style of Smith’s writing. It was vey similar to Vonnegut or Salinger, but with an apocalyptic twist. Through Austin, Smith ties all the stories and experiences together, reminding us that the human condition relies on relationships and connection. Austin visits the lineage of his family, who paved the way for his story to be told, and reminds the reader that the past comes with sacrifice, so the future can prosper. All in all, this helps Austin grow as a character (although the progression is so very slow).

3. This book is just plain weird. This is where I was on the fence about the book as a whole. Parts of this book I read out loud to Amanda and she just looked at me blankly like, “What are you even reading?”. Parts of this book were just so fantastically gross and detestable that I wanted to skip a few pages so I could continue. Parts of this book contain scenes with grasshopper sex that I don’t even really want to talk about. (This book says the word 'balls' A LOT.)

Final Thoughts:
I honestly don’t know what to say. This book is one that stands all alone in the realm of weird YA lit. I enjoyed that Smith gave the read a genuine male bisexual character that didn’t contain any stereotypes that popular books have. I hated that I felt worn out after finishing this book. Judge for yourself, my friends.

I gave this book three stars on Goodreads.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
So Hard To Rate 6 April 2014
By PeaTee - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Three Stars? Four Stars? This is one of those difficult to rate books. I enjoyed reading GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE and feel my time wasn't wasted, and there was a lot to enjoy in the book... BUT ultimately I gave it a "3" because deep in my hard cold soul, I have no interest in re-reading it, ever.

THE GOOD
--How the story was constructed. The use of historical perspective was just great.
--Portrayal of teen angst. You should know that a large portion of this book is character development of teens. And there's a wonkingly large amount of angst involved; and it is very well done.
--Humor. Wonderful humor throughout. Some of it is gallows humor but most is just humor involving the human condition. Delicious.

THE LESS GOOD
--There's a lack of drama involving the creatures. For me they were never scary, but ultimately were creatures of humor.
--The book's too long. I love quirky books. A book like this with interesting characters and humor fits my likes. However, when you have a book with teen angst driving the humor, and a lack of drama not involving the 'icky-poos', but all focused on the teens, shorter is better. I was frequently bored.
--Bit repetitive. The main characters obsession with his sexuality is an important part of the story. But I found frequent use of certain phrases actually distracted me from becoming more involved in the story.

Overall GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE is a fun read. The characters, both primary and secondary, are well drawn. I was glad I read the book.

**[[If you are offended by profanity or sexual references or bodily functions, leave it alone.]]
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