Title: Grasshopper Jungle
Author: Andrew Smith
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Pub Date: 02/11/14
Top 25: Yes
Convince us to read the book: This book blows my mind with its gritty grace and deeply flawed characters. It focuses on a few big themes (sexuality, history, science gone wrong) but at the same time feels like it’s about everything. Despite the mutant praying mantises and mad scientist bunker, this story feels extremely realistic and does an excellent job portraying a relatable teenage experience.
Memorable or Forgettable: Grasshopper Jungle is memorable because of how it blends science fiction with the realistic-fiction elements about Austin figuring out his sexuality and place in the world. I’m amazed by how seamless these sets of ideas were, especially since they are almost always explored separately. Austin’s character was developed with a lot of sensitivity, and I cared about him even though he did some very stupid things. The sci-fi aspect was original and scary in an almost absurdist way. Even though what’s going to happen is introduced early on, the way the events unfold and how various characters accidentally contribute to the end of the world drives the plot and makes the ending somehow inevitable and surprising at the same time. I recommend this highly, but this book does deal with considerable amounts of sex stuff and gore, so be prepared.
Cover: I picked this up because of recommendations from friends. The cover is a great color, something unique and alarming that will stand out among all the black and pink covers. I also really like the subtle graphic. It hints at what the book is about without giving too much away or having a random picture of a teenage model on it, which is a pet peeve of mine.
Age Range: 16 through 18 and up
Quality: 5Q Hard to imagine a better book
Popularity: 4P Broad general teen appeal
Annotation: Grasshopper Jungle is a coming of age epic told in layers, exploring the pitfalls and wisdom of history, complex issues of friendship and sexual confusion, and, of course, the story of how six-foot-tall man-eating praying mantises from Iowa brought on the end of the world.
tags: realistic science fiction / coming of age / GLBT /ya lit