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Grasshopper Jungle #1

Grasshopper Jungle

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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.

388 pages, Hardcover

First published February 11, 2014

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About the author

Andrew Smith

22 books1,698 followers
Andrew Smith is the author of Winger, Grasshopper Jungle, The Alex Crow, 100 Sideways Miles, and Rabbit & Robot, among others. Exile from Eden: Or, After the Hole, the long-awaited sequel to Grasshopper Jungle, is coming from Simon & Schuster on September 24, 2019.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,404 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,979 reviews170k followers
June 26, 2022

I was horny, and scared, and so confused about everything.

that pretty much sums up the book - main character austin puts the q in lgbtq as he is torn between his equally powerful romantic feelings for his girlfriend shann and his best friend robby, in a situation as turbulent as the one where the giant superbugs are taking over the planet.

i'm as confused as austin about my feelings towards this book. for some reason, i thought this book was universally beloved, but i see that most of my friends on here were as dissatisfied as i was with it.

this is a book that would probably do better with its intended audience of teenage boys than with the adult women who make up such a huge portion of the YA readership.

my uncharacteristic two stars isn't even for the things that i think the majority of female readers were turned off by - the constant talk about masturbation and horniness and BO and erections and balls (subset - the naming of balls, getting hit in the balls, the loss of balls by accident or misadventure, the sperm that comes out of balls) or even the way the female love interest is sidelined and reduced to stock complaints, pouting,

but that's not the reason i wasn't crazy about this. it's a combination of too much repetition and too little character development. because not only is shann barely there as a character, but so are robby and austin. for a love triangle, we get nothing to show us why any of these people are supposed to be desirable (except for shann's boobs, hair and skin, mentioned constantly, and robby's perfect neck and jaw). how are two people in love with austin and why are they so patient while he hems and haws and manages to get everything he wants by not choosing one way or another?? i just don't understand why he is in such demand, and how he managed to find two people who have the patience of saints when he's both selfish and uninteresting.

but the repetition is an even bigger problem - ugh. i know it's a conscious decision to keep making the same statements and trotting them out again and again to show how history folds over on itself in recurring patterns and there's nothing new under the sun and everything is connected but it just drained me.

i mean, i understand that teenage boys think about sex a lot, but just from a random page-flip just now:

-Thinking about a book like that made me very horny

-Thinking about me and Robby going to Sweden made me horny

-Hearing her say the words do that made me very horny.

-I was horny

-The three of us danced together. It made me very horny.

-Sounding father-like to Shann in the echoing darkness of the staircase that led nowhere made me feel horny

and the constant usage of "dynamo," the hundreds of cigarettes smoked, the recurring refrain of And that was our day. You know what I mean, and the countless other recycled words and phrases - after a while, you just want to scream "ENOUGH!"

there's also a tendency to forgo contractions, which makes the dialogue sound really strained:

"Please do not shoot us in the balls, EJ Elgin. It is only me, Robby Brees, and my friend, Austin Szerba, who is your next-door neighbor, and we are not rat boys from Mars. We come in peace, and smoking cigarettes."


"I will come over on Monday and get drunk with you."

it's a shame, because there are some really nicely-phrased parts setting up the quiet smalltown iowa atmosphere that i really liked, but there were too few of those and too much of the stuff that drove me crazy:

Nobody was out there.
This was Ealing at nighttime.
Nobody ever had any reason to be out, unless they were standing on the curb watching their house burn down.


We never heard sirens in Ealing. It's not that bad things never happened here, it's just that nobody ever bothered to complain about it when they did.

but the rest is all snips balls and snails horny and puppy dog tails sperm, which isn't something i usually take issue with, but here it just seems to be going for shock value thrills by its sheer overabundance, like it's just trying to get banned from school libraries. (the story about how austin was accidentally responsible for The Chocolate War being removed from his lutheran school's library seems almost like a nose-thumb, along with the resulting line "Stupid people should never read books.") again, just a random page-flip, and you come across many many words that have historically gotten books banned by "the concerned."

page 242:

semen, testicles, shit, shit, sperm

page 124:

drug, heroin, pot, heroin, heroin, fuck, drugs, fucks, fuck, fuck, fucked, fucked, fucked, dope, penis, shit, fucked, fucking, fucking, cigarettes,

page 36:

masturbation, masturbation, cigarette, masturbating, masturbating, masturbate, masturbated, horny, masturbating, shit

i'm no prude, so it doesn't bother me, but people who go out of their way to be provocative and "shocking" kind of embarrass me a little.

so yeah - the repetition bothered me, the barely-there love interests, austin's shitty treatment of people, the lack of resolution of storylines (why was robby's dad's story in there at all?), and the ending which "more or less" shows that austin has learned nothing about consequences and everything's shitty for everyone else while he flits around doing whatever he wants and

although the giant killer bugs were cool, i guess.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Gillian.
458 reviews1,079 followers
July 26, 2014

Rating: WHAT THE HECK EVEN WAS THAT AND WHY THE HECK DID I LIKE IT I think my brains are on the floor

Originally posted at Writer of Wrongs

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.
Profile Image for Jesse (JesseTheReader).
468 reviews168k followers
March 11, 2015
Unfortunately this is my least favorite Andrew Smith novel. I adored the weirdness and quirkiness and how outside of the box this story was. You won't find a YA book out there (at this point anyways) like this one, trust me. The main problems I had with this book involved the slow pacing and the over detailed history sections. It was hard for me to get through at times, but nonetheless I still enjoyed it. Remarkable characters and a wild plot!
Profile Image for Grace (BURTSBOOKS).
153 reviews354 followers
January 25, 2019
I am in love with this book. I knew not even 20 pages in that it was going to become one of my all time favourites and there’s not one negative thing I have to say about it. I love absolutely everything about it.

Grasshopper Jungle is about Austin and how he and his best friend, Robby, cause the end of the world by letting loose 6-foot grasshopper killing machines that only want to eat(people, each other, themselves?)and have sex(reproduce), into the world.

I love this book more than words can express.

I love how unique and hilarious and fucking weird it is. I love Austin’s voice and reading from his point of view. I usually hate first person pov but with this book, it just made it even better. Austin is hilarious and a little bit of an idiot but also compelling and immensely relatable and I loved that about him. I love Robby Brees probably more than I love myself. He is the best, best friend/love interest/sidekick/god I have ever have read about. I love the underlying themes of history/time and I loved the ending and everything it stood for.

I love this book...In case you didn’t notice.

While everything about this book is amazing, Austin’s internal struggle is what makes it special in my opinion. AS cool as the six-foot grasshoppers are, they aren’t what keep you reading for 300+ pages, or they aren’t the only thing, it takes a balance. We read to feel less alone, we read to relate and it’s almost impossible to relate to someone trying to save the world from unstoppable grasshoppers but we all can relate to feeling lost and not knowing who we are. I truthfully didn’t even like Austin that much, he makes a lot of stupid decisions and he is careless with the people he loves but he was so real I couldn’t help but be fond of him.

This was one of the first books in a while that I couldn’t put down and as we all know that is the best feeling in the whole world. I was so enthralled with this story and these characters and so so happy to be reading something I so thoroughly enjoyed because I am so fucking picky but this ahhhh I love it so much. That’s all I can say.

This book is like nothing I’ve ever read before, its interesting and emotional and completely unpredictable and everything about it is wonderful. I recommend it to everyone, I talk about it almost constantly. I love this book and I'm angry no one talks about it here on GR's so here I am talking about it. I’m sorry if this review made barely any sense, I am just so overwhelmed with my love for this book I can’t compute it. Just read it. Please. Read it.
Profile Image for Justin Tate.
Author 7 books911 followers
June 12, 2019
Grasshopper Jungle is as immature as it is witty, as ridiculous as it is profound and as weird as it is rational. I love all of it. The writing style takes some getting used to, but is soon as cozy as a warm blanket. Had I read it as a young buy, it would have changed my life. Actually, it changed my life anyway.

I'd love to talk plot and twists, but don't want to be a spoiler. I went in basically blind, and I think that's the way to go. I'll only say that it is a coming-of-age story with giant man-eating bugs. But the bugs are just background entertainment. It's so much deeper than that. If I had a magic wand, I'd put 20 copies in every library and make it required reading for all males aged 16 and up.
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,644 reviews5,104 followers
September 9, 2016
Austin is a 16-year-old living in Ealing, Iowa. he's in love with his girlfriend Shann; he's in love with his best friend Robbie. author Andrew Smith inhaled a lot of Kurt Vonnegut Jr, or something, before writing this decidedly quirky take on teenage hormones, the cyclical nature of history, how and why we define ourselves, and the joy of creating a whole new world out of what came before. the prose is loose; the tone is light; the narrative is haphazard. because Austin is a realistically depicted American teenage male, the book also includes angst, anxiety, intense friendships, secrets, cigarettes, skateboarding, people stripping down, a whole lot of balls & sperm & pissing, more "uh"s and "um"s than you can count, and the undeniable and frequently stated fact that Austin is incredibly horny about 100% of the time. oh and this book also includes giant praying mantises that burst out of plague victims' bodies and are about to take over the world - but they are a somewhat minor part, all things considered.

much as with actual human beings, many novels' flaws are intrinsically tied to their virtues. it is hard to have one without the other because they are two sides of the same coin. Andrew Smith makes some quirky writing decisions that are very Vonnegut-y, which is great because I love the off-kilter writing style and how the book manages to be simultaneously sunny & sweet and morbid & melancholy. what is not so great is that Smith takes that eccentricity to a place that is less than delightful: namely, in the intentional repetitiveness that started off as amusingly playful but eventually became mind-numbingly tedious.

that said, I still found this to be a thoroughly charming and fun experience. I'm a bi guy who realized in high school that I was attracted to both my girlfriend and a couple of my guy friends, so it was particularly wonderful to read about Austin's indecision regarding Shann and Robbie. (although honestly Austin reads more as straight-but-curious to me.) this is definitely a book for boys, and all that implies, so I can't imagine many women enjoying it without at least some negative reaction to the novel's disinterest in the inner life of its female characters and its protagonist's intense focus on himself and his various sexual fantasies. that stuff should have bothered me too, but hey I was a teenage guy once so it just came across as pretty realistic to me.
Profile Image for Brian Yahn.
310 reviews593 followers
June 21, 2016
Here's the facts about Grasshopper Jungle: it's different, unique, weird, and it's a lot.

More or less.

In ways, the weirdness and tangents are similar to Vonnegut's stories: the characters, the world, the writing, and even the dialogue is reminiscent, which is to say it's great. But Grasshopper Jungle feels much less cohesive. It feels like it defies physics with its dozens of story lines that neither parallel nor intersect. Actually, what it feels like is a story without any lines, just a lot of points. If there's much in common with preying mantises bursting out of people Alien-style and homosexuality and being selfish and the history of Poland and smoking cigarettes, Andrew Smith didn't really show me.

Although I did finish this quickly and enjoy a lot of it, I've never read anything like Grasshopper Jungle, doubt I will again, and probably there's a reason for that.
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 7 books1,211 followers
February 1, 2014
Sometimes, you have to look at a piece of art and appreciate that it's a work of ART, even though you dislike pretty much everything about it. I think that pretty much sums up my experience with Grasshopper Jungle. There's craft and artistry and creativity but there wasn't much of the story I enjoyed.

I loved Austin and Robby's relationship. But I hated how Austin treated all females in the story. Robby points out how Austin is incredibly selfish and that's spot on. He left out the part where Austin's mostly a jerk all around, too.

But throughout the story -- and I admit to this not being a criticism of this particular book -- I kept thinking this is the kind of book no female author would ever get away with or have compared to Vonnegut, and likewise, no female main character would ever be seen as funny or honest for talking about her vagina, raging horniness, desire to have sex, and so forth in the same way Austin talks about his needs and desires.

It's WEIRD, sure. It makes some interesting commentary on sexuality and bisexuality specifically. But I don't know if there's a whole lot more to it for me. I wanted it to feel riskier (and again, I realize that's my projection on the story) but it didn't. I also felt it dragged on too long and the personal history aspects got boring and repetitive for me. I found the cultural history far more enjoyable. The way the giant grasshoppers were woven in was, indeed, smart.

Also, there are times when the author's voice comes through far more than it should. Austin goes from talking about his balls or another character's balls or need to use the bathroom to then mentioning that certain characters have a "very Iowa name." It didn't read true to a teen boy. It was almost too conscious of what it was trying to do and it detracted from Austin himself.
Profile Image for Regan.
366 reviews109k followers
April 15, 2014
Before I get started on this review I want to put a disclaimer out there - I do not think this book is for everyone. Also, this was probably one of the strangest books i've ever read, and I really liked it.

Grasshopper Jungle follows a sexually confused Polish boy named Austin, Austin lives in a boring small Iowan town were all he does is skateboard and smoke cigarettes with his best friend Robby. However, due to some very complicated yet not so complicated events Austin and his friend Robby unleash a strand of fungi that turns people into grasshoppers that brings about the end of the world.

Going into this book I was slightly worried because I knew it was going to be strange and probably pretty vulgar. I was right on both counts, but that didn't bother me. Oh, and I am not kidding on the vulgarness of this book, I literally don't think Ive read the words "horney" "balls" or "sperm" more in my entire life. Strangely though I felt that both of these things worked for the book and they didn't end up bothering me. The story over all was very engaging because it is just so absurd, but it reads smoothly at the same time. The greatest thing about this book was the narration, Austin was telling us the story in a retrospective style narration that would even venture off into omniscient narration. This gave us so many angles to this story, we were aware of everything that was going on, we almost seemed to know too much at times.

Anyway, this book was pretty great and I will be doing a video review soon.
Profile Image for Chris.
1,850 reviews73 followers
July 3, 2013
I have to say, I was disappointed by Grasshopper Jungle.

I happened to be at the American Library Association annual conference this year and I happened to see Andrew Smith announce online that the very first bound copies of his not yet copyedited manuscript would be available at the Penguin Young Readers booth to those who asked. I was excited. They weren't even ready yet on Friday when the exhibits opened, that's how brand new these were, and I had to go back on Saturday to get an 8 1/2" x 11", double-spaced, coverless copy. I had one even before the author did. I was more than excited.

I made myself wait, though, because I had a conference to attend. For a couple of days, anyway. I finally cracked it open in the shuttle on my last day, and then Grasshopper Jungle was my travel companion on my journey home, plus just a bit longer.

This morning I finished it, and I was disappointed. It ended too soon. Not in terms of the story arc, which was complete and satisfying; but I have a couple of days to recover from the conference and all the socializing by relaxing at home while disappearing into a good book, and I have no more Grasshopper Jungle to read. I'm not ready for the experience of the book to end yet, and that leaves me feeling disappointed.

So just what is Grasshopper Jungle? That's a bit hard to explain. From the prologue:

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.

That is not a complete list.

Each time I finished a chapter in Grasshopper Jungle I immediately went back and reread the chapter title. Then I would smile in appreciation and satisfaction. The chapter titles, for the most part, were a few words or a phrase from the chapter to come. They didn't carry much meaning when first encountered. But from the perspective at the end of the chapter in hindsight, each title was a perfect--and often amusing--encapsulation or representation of the chapter that followed. Part of the experience was going back and closing the circle of perspective to fully appreciate the meaning.

That, in many ways, is the experience of reading Grasshopper Jungle. Think of a snowball rolling down a hillside. It starts as a perfectly nice little sphere, but as it descends, with each rotation, it pulls more snow into itself and gathers more momentum, until, when it finally reaches its destination at the bottom it is massive with layers of accumulated snow and power.

Austin, the narrator and protagonist of Grasshopper Jungle, is a compulsive chronicler. He is obsessed with history, and each night he records his personal history in journals. In Austin's view, most histories are spotty and incomplete, and his goal is to always be as inclusive as possible, so he records everything. Grasshopper Jungle is Austin's history of the end of the world, which happens to be a web of connections that all crisscross through him.

His narration starts as a perfectly nice little snowball composed of introductions to a few characters, ideas, and themes that are at first vague to readers, just like the chapter titles. As we read through his story we soon come back around to those characters, ideas, and themes again, and this time they are a little more familiar. They carry more weight and meaning. As the story grows, more elements are introduced and the complexity grows, and the snowball keeps rolling and Austin keeps circling back to the elements with each rotation. The connections accumulate and the significance and weight of every element expands with each passing. Words, phrases, jokes, places, people, actions, ideas come back over and over; instead of getting old or repetitive, they simple grow more important, meaningful, humorous, insightful, poignant, and relevant.

I'll never think of the words kayak, dynamo, unstoppable, and history the same way again. Or about presidents and bathrooms. Or presidents' balls.

There are too many elements in Grasshopper Jungle for it to hold together as a cohesive whole, but it works beautifully. In many ways, on many levels.

There is too much contained within the pages of Grasshopper Jungle to explain it to those who haven't been rolled into the snowball and seen the elements over and over from the accumulated perspective of looking back on history.

It is the story of a struggling, confused teenage boy from the middle of Iowa. It is a story of humanity. It is a story of the end of the world.

Good books are always about everything, writes Austin.

Instead of attempting to abbreviate everything, I'll instead offer a random (not entirely comprehensively representative), contextless sampling of some of Austin's irreverent, often profane observations and comments:

Nothing good ever happens when cell phones are used to record video.

I wondered if I would ever not be horny, or confused about my horniness, or confused about why I got horny at stuff I wasn't supposed to get horny at.

History is full of decapitations, and Iowa is no exception.

History does show that boys who dance are far more likely to pass along their genes than boys who don't.

If I pictured a room where I was going to murder someone, aside from the instruments of torture and shit like that, it would have this wallpaper.

That was the first time in history anyone from Ealing, Iowa used the word
eponymous. You could get beaten up in Ealing for using words like that.

History never tells about people taking shits. I can't for a moment believe that guys like Theodore Roosevelt or Winston Churchill never took a shit. History always abbreviates out the shit-taking.

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.

History lesson for the day: My balls are barometers to emotional storms.

Messed-up sperm is the evolutionary slot machine that will destroy mankind.

History lesson for the early evening: When a teenage boy says
everyone else does, he's usually not being mathematically precise.

Robby's favorite poem is
Dulce Et Decorum Est, by Wilfred Owen. It is a poem about war and lies, youth and thievery. . . . My favorite poem is The Emperor of Ice-Cream, by Wallace Stevens. It is a poem about everything else: sex, lust, pleasure, loneliness, and death.

If there's one thing America can do well, it's freeze shit.

The Greeks were good at making up words for shit.

Americans like big things to piss on.

Krys Szczerba called his urinals
Nightingales, after his wife, Eva Nightingale, who, like the urinals Krys made, was big, accommodating, and perfectly white.

We never heard sirens in Ealing. It's not that bad things never happened here, it's just that nobody ever bothered to complain about it when they did.

History lesson: Over the course of centuries in the history of education, although fought valiantly by endless armies of pedagogues, the attempt to frighten teenagers away from sex has proven to be a losing battle.

If the act of urination had self-esteem, it could not help but feel better about itself after occurring in such a splendid location.

History shows that an examination of the personal collection of titles in any man's library will provide something of a glimpse into his soul.

She was as fertilized as a genetically-modified cornfield in Kansas, and was getting ready to lay millions of squirming eggs.

Coughing when someone is grabbing your balls requires as much concentration as riding a unicycle while carrying an Ozark Watermelon.

Nobody would ever take an army of communists without balls seriously.

Spanish missionaries were real good at naming shit.

Having balls with the same name as your best friend's is a serious social blunder.

I can find no historical records anywhere which detail whether Ronald Reagan ever took a shit, or if he named his balls.

Being a historian naturally has its dangers, but this is my job.

I did not know what to do. Everything was a mess. I was in love with my two best friends, and I was making them both miserable at the same time. And there were big horny bugs above us who were eating the whole planet.

That list excludes the many thoughtful, serious, compassionate, dramatic, tragic veins that run through the pages of Grasshopper Jungle.

Andrew Smith's publisher--someone who I am certain has read more books than the majority of us--says in her brief introduction to this early copy:

It is, truly, like nothing else I've ever read. Funny, rude, and outrageous, it's also a deeply insightful and literary work that weaves together seemingly unrelated strands into a wholly unique tapestry.

Most people will have to wait a while until they have an opportunity to read Grasshopper Jungle. They should be disappointed.
Profile Image for Kathrina.
508 reviews127 followers
June 17, 2014
I've never found so many male characters in one book who have lost ownership of at least one or more of their balls. I have never met, in ya fiction, a bisexual character described with such frankness and transparency. However, I have frequently met female supporting characters who's pain, complications of character, and dissatisfactions are their defining features, are unrelenting, and neglected by the male protagonist and the whole novel itself. The author does not seem too concerned that, for the entirety of the novel, Shann is not having a good time, but that is beside the point of our protagonist having a good time.

The first 100 pages, though slow to build, are fun and unpredictable. Then there's some stuff that happens, and the last 100 pages tell us again and again what stuff has happened, through literary devices that are sometimes clever and sometimes dull. And the last 5 pages kind of sum up the story of the future of the world, a happy ending of a sort, the women have babies and the men get to explore this brave new world. Moral: It is way fun to be a self-absorbed teenage boy, horny all the time, shooting monsters, and owning important sperm that is busy in someone else's body, creating a new human race.

This will not appeal to everyone. I was going to give this to my 15-year-old, but have decided, no. If he finds it himself, that's fine, but I doubt he'd be interested. Yes, there's a lot of sex, but it's very specifically about a boy's issues about sex, about as un-sexy as sex can manage to be, and I feel he'd be more embarrassed than aroused. And I'm sure he wouldn't appreciate it for its literary stylings -- what I'm trying to do while overlooking the glaring anti-female tropes.
Profile Image for Kačaba.
942 reviews221 followers
January 31, 2015

1) Otevři knihu
a) Pokud si po přečtení 1. strany myslíš, že je všechno v pořádku, hlas se na psychiatrii.
b) Pokud si po přečtení 1. strany říkáš WTF, rozběhni se čelem proti betonové zdi a zkus to přečíst znova, mělo by to být OK.

2) Pokračuj ve čtení
a) Až narazíš na penis ve skleničce a jestli se ti to bude líbit, jsi pravděpodobně úchyl. Promiň. S takovýma já se nebavím (rozkaz od maminky).
b) Až narazíš na penis ve skleničce a řekneš si WAT, věz, že bude hůř, vypij rum s čajem a pokračuj.

3) Po každých 30 stranách se posilni alkoholickým nápojem.

4) Na straně 223 začíná Konec světa, svítá na lepší časy, sněz extra chilli papričky (8 ks). Pro štěstí.

5) A pak .... v opileckém módu a rozbrečený/á papričkama a po srážce se zdí budeš moci ocenit tuto absolutně magorsky nepochopitelnou absurdnost. :))

Good Luck!
589 reviews1,031 followers
June 30, 2015
See more reviews at YA Midnight Reads

2.5 stars

So. How to put this? Grasshopper Jungle was weird. Weird, for me falls into three categories. There's good weird, where you just love the quirkiness and originality, WTF weird, which literally makes you think: "What the fuck was that?" and Mel weird--where you act like me. Total psycho and creepy all at once. Grasshopper Jungle falls into all these categories. So yes, I guess the only word fitting for this book is weird. You'd think this book and I would be a real good match then, right? 'Cause anyone or anything that's weird is a friend of mine. Sadly, this was not exactly the case.
Good books are always about everything.

You can say that again. Grasshopper Jungle was a good book, and it was about a whole truck of things. However not my type of read. Despite it's awfully simplistic cover (c'mon it's just two lines, really) Andrew Smith's latest was crammed full of words and happenings. Our protagonist, Austin, is a teenage boy from Ealing. He has a gay best friend, Robby, and a girlfriend, Shann. Austin is obsessed with history and gets horny. A lot. Like...seriously? I felt that the word "horny" got overused instead of funny after a few pages. So first off, I would only be recommending this to a more mature audience. (I do believe the category for this is Mature YA or something as such.) There are definitely no hesitations with the coarse language--which is not necessarily a good or bad thing. Apart from Austin's horniness and infatuation with history, he's an okay protagonist. I mean, he's bearable. He tends to sit and ponder about life, such as his sexuality and image really out of the blue situations. He's also confused. And I'm not exaggerating when I say this dude is verbose. He's practically always spinning off on a tangent.
And I realized that for a good three and a half minutes, I stood there at the doorway to a big empty house that smelled like old people's skin, thinking about three-ways involving my friends.
So I wondered if that meant I was gay.
I hadn't been listening to anything Shann and Robby were talking about, and while I was pondering my sexuality, they were probably thinking about how I was an idiot.

Another quibble I had with this book was the pace. I love my coming of age stories slow and gradual. Unfortunately, Grasshopper Jungle was too slow. As in: oh god move on already. This does weave in with Austin's random and irrelevant rambling. I mean, I don't need to have two chapters of you talking about your three grandfathers back grandfather and his name being changed. Sure, it's interesting but we need to move on now. Too much information is just as bad as too little.

I'm not absolutely sure where I stand when it comes to the writing and format of this book. It was different and certainly had it's quirks. There's not an exact word I could use to describe the writing, however I think I enjoyed if after a while. The format is also distinctively contrary. The chapters are shorter than what I had expected and the titles are to the point and summarise each chapter perfectly.

Bizarre, unique and still quite thought provoking, Grasshopper Jungle will capture many people's attention--though please don't get your hopes to high as this book is not for everyone like myself, I really wished I loved this more).


This book is weirder than me. Like good weird. But also WTF weird. Review to come

On another note: school starts today. I can't believe I got up at 6am.
Profile Image for Bill.
Author 12 books1,913 followers
December 17, 2013
I am in awe of this novel. So clever, so creative, so unlike anything I've ever read before. It's an extremely meaty reading experience, for lack of a better word; the richness of backstory detail made this novel unlike anything I'd ever read. It made me think about how wide the world is, and as a writer, it made me think about how I need to get out of my comfort zone when I think about the possibilities of what has happened to my characters, and what can happen to them.

The narrator is just ... everything. Such a distinctive voice, funny and tragic and wonderful and infuriating and just, wow.

I am not generally one to read violent literature, and let's just say this is a tad violent. I loved it anyway. I don't know that it will make me read more violent stuff, but I will say that I forgave the violence immediately and happily. This is not for the faint of heart; sex and violence rules. The honesty of the voice makes both feel the opposite of gratuitous. It's just necessary.

I am so curious to see how other people react to this book. Mostly, you just have to read the thing. Now. Stop what you're doing and buy this book. When it comes out, I mean.
Profile Image for Donalyn.
Author 8 books5,912 followers
February 11, 2014
"Good books are about everything." I read so many books and enjoy lots of them, but I am on an endless hunt for books that surprise me and show me something new. Andrew Smith's books disturb me and push me to look at story in new ways. He's a brilliant writer. Grasshopper Jungle will stick with me for a long time. I don't think it's a book for everyone because some readers will find the constant sexual references and bleak storyline hard to read. If you've read anything Andrew's written you know how much beauty he draws from such harsh places. Grasshopper Jungle may not be the right book for you, but it's the right book for all of us because it breaks new storytelling ground.
Profile Image for Walter.
Author 6 books63 followers
February 16, 2014
People! It's my vacation and I have Odyssey books to listen to but I want you to know that I am reading a book for the second time not because I am required to for committee work but because it is so effing brilliant that I lose my shit just thinking about it. When GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE comes out in February I encourage--nay, demand--that you read it and give it to every horny teenage boy you know, as well as the girls and boys who love them. Revel in the glorious sentence composition, the insane plot, the epic tension between his pacing and his short chapter construction, and, most of all, the amazing ability Andrew Smith has to NAIL the fundamentals of the changing, evolving, morphing DNA of contemporary manhood in our culture.

I doubt I will stop talking about this book all year, cause on the heels of his no-less extraordinary WINGER, we have a writer who is saying important shit in ways no one else is saying. I feel about his writing the way I felt upon discovering Bruce Brooks or Chris Crutcher, and those of you who have known me a long time will recall how obsessed I became with them.
Profile Image for Brooke.
537 reviews292 followers
February 6, 2017
Two stars is a REALLY generous reflection of my response to this book. At the half-way point, I was very firmly in the 2-stars camp. As I pushed my way through the second half of the book, I was feeling pretty certain I was going to 1-star it. There were flashes of cleverness that made me want to like it much more than I did. There were also things in its narration style that reminded me of Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse-Five, both of which I did not like very much.

Ultimately, I just became SO tired of all the talk about being horny and balls and penises and sperm and fucking and masturbating over and over and over and over and over again. And not from any place of feeling prudish, but from feeling exasperated by the very male notion that the main character's penis is just sooooo interesting. Pardon my eye rolling over here.
Profile Image for Jennie.
323 reviews72 followers
August 26, 2018
That was certainly a book.

I wanted to like this -- giant grasshoppers who like to eat people sound hilarious. Unfortunately, the narration drove me nuts. I wouldn't have stuck with it past page 75 but for the good reviews my friends gave it.

I can also see why it's being criticized as misogynistic. The protagonist's girlfriend is only there to serve as a foil for his possible bisexuality. By the end of the book, the only thing you really know about her is her breast size (big). Between that and the constant ball/sperm/penis talk, the main character was insufferable. (If Smith's goal was to portray teenage boys as annoying alien creatures, he succeeded.)

If a female author/protagonist spent 400 pages talking about female genitalia in great detail, and possibly maybe wanting to have a threesome with her best friend and her boyfriend (but not really him, he has a nice body and all, but that's it), in the most reductive and least sexy way ever, we'd have MRAs descending on Goodreads like a plague of locusts.


Quick, to the sex silo! There's not much time left!

Great idea, meh execution. Not sorry I read it, because there were some amusing parts. Plus, watching the confused look of horror on Adam's face as I explained the plot was totally worth it.
Profile Image for Braiden.
359 reviews205 followers
July 12, 2015
First read finished: 29 November, 2013
Second read finished: 30 January, 2014

I just re-read Andrew Smith's Grasshopper Jungle, and although I understood and acknowledged the artistry and purpose, the ideas and themes inherent throughout Grasshopper Jungle after the first read, the second reading made my perception of this novel so much stronger and grounded.


ou think you know what ‘Young Adult’ is, but you don’t. You think it’s all teen angst; it’s not. Paranormal… Dystopian… When you read YA novels that are written thematically, written introspectively with brutal honesty and that are much more about identity and experimentation, like Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle, you will realise that YA has much more to offer if you read the right ones. Read any one of Andrew Smith’s prior books and you will see. He’s a favourite young adult author of mine, a modern-day Kurt Vonnegut or Franz Kafka for teens, particularly because of Grasshopper Jungle.

Grasshopper Jungle is about experimentation scientifically and experimentation as a teenager and the areas in-between, and how everything from history is in some way connected to our present. Austin Szerba recounts the history of his Polish great-great-grandfather, Krzys Szczerba, and his immigration to America (losing the c’s and z’s in his name), and then everything else that follows on, such as his son’s – Andrzej’s, Austin’s great-grandfather – settlement in the state of Iowa and his secretive life. Austin simultaneously recounts the present history when he and his gay best friend Robbie stumble upon and reignite an experiment from decades before, and as a consequence, their Iowan town becomes overrun by 6-feet tall praying mantises, hatched from various citizens of their town, which only do two things: eat and fuck. While all that goes on, Austin becomes confused with his sexuality – he loves Shannon, his girlfriend from seventh grade, but he also has feelings for Robbie.

The way Andrew Smith has written and structured Grasshopper Jungle will indisputably make this novel literary YA, regardless of the content it may hold. The writing is a flawless representation of Austin’s voice, his thoughts, and his obsession with history. In our day and age we are always – every living day – made aware and reminded about the events of the past, so, in a sense, Austin does the same throughout Grasshopper Jungle, recording every detail and every event of his personal history and the history of his Iowan town with precision, as to not fall victim to the incompleteness of past histories.

I don’t think I have ever read a novel as true and as real as Grasshopper Jungle, that has been able to capture the true essence, the tough and confusing reality, of being a teenager – a male teenager, I might add. We probably don’t – well, didn’t, since I’m 21, though I’m still in the same boat – express how many times we’re horny like Austin does in Grasshopper Jungle, or how many times we’ve thought about sex or thought about doing things that are described somewhat as anti-social (smoking, drugs, masturbation, or boys or girls, or whatever else there is), but the reality is… we do. We don’t share these thoughts – other than with close friends – because we’re embarrassed, because we’re afraid of judgement or of the risks and conflicts we may encounter with the people that we love. But unless we experiment, how would we know the consequences and learn from them?

All that is juxtaposed against the backdrop of the Unstoppable Soldier experiment, a scientific and government-funded experiment, gone horribly wrong in the past and which has reawakened to wreak havoc on the present, and also set against the experiments and experiences of the men in Austin’s family history. Every detail within Grasshopper Jungle holds meaning and relevance. Words and phrases, descriptions, are repeated many times over throughout the novel, the work of a truly, professional historian like Austin Szerba, as well as the true craftsmanship of a writer like Andrew Smith.

This novel will surely stir controversy, but what good is an experiment if you don’t have results? Also, can history be rewritten or is it already written for us? Austin has the answers. You just have to fight the 6-feet tall praying mantises with shark-tooth-studded arms to get to them, as well as travel with Austin on his journey to self-acceptance and his search for his identity, in his Iowan town and as Austin Szerba, the great-great-grandson of Krzys Szczerba.

If Grasshopper Jungle is not selected for school literature circles or equivalent, I will be appalled. Not because I think Grasshopper Jungle should be, but because it deserves to be studied and understood in greater detail, and not only perceived by what’s physically there on the page.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,447 reviews7,542 followers
April 29, 2014
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

This books begins like so many others – an angsty teen lets us in on his pathetic little life. Austin is Polish and might be gay. He’s always horny and likes to draw and keep track of history in his journal. He lives in Iowa and has a real dynamo of a dog who is great at taking dumps. He’s Polish and he might be gay. He’s definitely horny. Did I mention some of that already? Well, if I say it 57,000 more times I’ll maybe come close to how many times Austin brought it up. Yeah, it’s a rough beginning.

About a third of the way through, there was finally get a glimpse of how things may not be quite what they appear

and I was really hoping this book would go from blah to BOOM.

I mean, we’re talking about it potentially being the end of the world

with giant mutant praying mantises

action, gore, even a super secret bunker complete with training videos on how to deal with the potential apocalypse

Sadly, in spite of all of this, Austin still spent much of his time bemoaning the status of his love life.

Many people complain about the voice of young adult characters being too mature, their behavior a little too refined, their vocabulary a little too impressive. Trust me when I say you want it that way. Good gravy is the alternative so much worse.

Andrew Smith wrote a great coming of age story with Winger. He did not need to write another one. He definitely didn’t need to use the same annoying voice for his male lead without giving him any redeeming qualities when creating Austin. Smith himself said this was a book that was never intended to be published and, unfortunately, you can tell. I wish the editors would have put their hands in the pie a whole lot more. The sci-fi story was fun and fresh and I seriously dug it. But the melodrama? It needed to be left on the cutting room floor.

Sidenote: It seems a lot of people are handing out mass quantities of stars on this one because it’s so strange. If you are looking for weird (and I mean WEIRD) without the angst, skip Grasshopper Jungle and check out John Dies at the End instead.
Profile Image for Shaun Hutchinson.
Author 25 books4,637 followers
February 15, 2014
Andrew Smith likes to do two things: write and make people's heads explode. Reading this book is definitely a good idea.

How the hell do you review a book like GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE? I'm not sure I can. I'm not sure it's even really a book. It's a history. It's a lot of histories, actually. The thing about histories is that they're inevitably filtered through the particular lens of the person writing them. In this case it's Austin Szerba. He also likes to do two things, or think about doing them anyway. GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE is Austin's history of the end of the world.

Austin frequently mentions that it's his job, as a historian, to write the truth. He also mentions that it's not his job to write the whys, only the whats. I'm not sure Austin accurately does either. I believe Austin has written a history—I'm not sure it's his—and I'm sure that Austin has written the truth as is filtered through his eyes—but it may not be THE truth—and I'm sure Austin believes he has written only the whats, but the reality is that this book is full of whys. Austin is a supremely unreliable narrator. But isn't that true of all historians? They begin with a conclusion and write backward, cherry picking the events of the past to support that conclusion.

The structure and style of GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE may seem odd to some people. The repeated phrases, the obsessive single-mindedness of Austin's hormones, the strange formality of the dialog, but the style works. Austin is writing a history as he remembers it. He is trying to transcribe it exactly as he recalls it. The funny thing about memory is that we begin to rewrite it the moment it happens in our own brains, smoothing over the rough spots and highlighting the good stuff. We fill in blanks and omit unnecessary details. Austin is writing it as if he expects other people to read it. Hence, the formal tone. I'm not sure many writers could have pulled this off. In fact, I know they couldn't have.

Like The Marbury Lens before it, GJ is going to require further readings. Is it a history? Is it a true history? Is it an allegory disguised as a history? Did Austin write an allegory disguised as a history? Did poor Robbie ever get laid? I need a blue kayak after reading this book.

One thing I know for sure is that GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE is unstoppable. Andrew Smith is unstoppable. I hope he never stops doing the two things Andrew Smith likes to do.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
September 11, 2014
Semen, horniness, profanity on almost every page.

BUT, a hilarious end-of-the-world/family history/exploration of teen sexuality combo.
Profile Image for Nnedi.
Author 151 books15.1k followers
April 9, 2015
This novel is
1. A unique telling of a story in which all hell breaks lose. Super cool.
2. The most unknowingly patriarchy-driven novel I have ever read. (not in a "aren't men cool" kinda way, in a "men are just central and superior and therefore the default" kinda way). Not cool at ALL.
Profile Image for Thibaut Nicodème.
578 reviews134 followers
October 22, 2016
DNF at 12%. You can find my detailed analysis on my blog, the Snark Theater (part 1part 2)

If I had to summarize this book, it would be "desperate to be edgy". The blurb describes it as "shocking", but…it's not. It's trying to be, but it just rings false.

It's all style and no substance. Trying to have an almost poetic feel to the narration (which…falls flat and mostly just ends up with it feeling confusing; you're writing prose, tone down the metaphors), repetition of the obvious enforced themes…but there's nothing to sustain that style.

It doesn't help that said "themes" are 1) that Austin is turned on by everything (sorry, "horny", because apparently no one's taught Andrew Smith about synonyms) and 2) "history will tell" that the current status quo has always existed and will never change, apparently. Or in other words, the book tries to pass off the author's world view as the sole truth, and uses "history" to legitimize it.

And, of course, we have the typical issue of characters not actually behaving like humans. I found out the author was over sixty years old, and…yeah, this is exactly how I'd expect a sixty-year-old married man to write a questioning teenage boy, his gay best friend and his girlfriend, along with the bullies and everyone else in this town who's basically one-dimensional. And speaking of the "questioning" part…bisexuality, it exists. As a bi guy, I feel personally offended that Austin thinks being attracted to his best friend (in the context of a threesome with his girlfriend, mind you) can only mean he's "a homosexual".

I just…I hate this book. I really hate it. It elicited actual anger out of me—something that doesn't happen very often.

PS: because someone prompted me to do it, I did some math on how frequent 'horny' shows up in the book. It is the 74th most used word in the book. Out of 7137 distinct, non-stop words. It is used more than the protagonist's own name. That is way too much.
Profile Image for Estefani.
150 reviews58 followers
November 12, 2016
4.5 Stars

This book is many things: strange, unusual, unrealistic, grotesque, kind of nasty, a bit misogynistic, fun and entertaining, all at once. I actually chuckled several times throughout the book. There were many hilarious quotes in it, but I forgot to mark them. "What can you do?"

It's full of repetitive sentences, but once you get the feel of it, you can go through it more easily. Austin was, to me, very similar to Ryan Dean from Winger. Of course I didn't relate with Austin, at all, but that didn't stop me from enjoying his story. I believe it's bullshit when people claim they didn't liked certain book because they didn't "relate" to the characters. When reading fiction, with fictional characters, it is highly probable we're not going to relate to them, so you either like them, or you don't. "What can you do?"

The writing of this book was phenomenal, you could feel it was Austin telling you his story, which I had a feeling he was kind of an unreliable narrator. Throughout the book he told us about his family history, and it was told in a very specific way, which makes you wonder, how could he possibly know that? He told us several times that he does not lie, I'm not sure if I believed him. Of course all these things I found rather amusing. "What can you do?"

As I was reading I kept picturing how it would end, and I couldn't, I was blank. Once I've finished, I realized, well that was perfectly climatic considering the nature of the book.

"And that was our day.
You know what I mean."
Profile Image for Steph Sinclair.
461 reviews11.1k followers
April 9, 2014

I think I may have enjoyed this more if I had read it instead of listening to the audiobook. The narrator's voice was so robotic and made me want to slam my head against a wall. I fell asleep a lot and had to keep restarting chapters.

I also don't really understand what was happening? The world was ending? Bugs were invading human bodies? Oh, well, not a single fuck was given that day.

I was interested in the MC's struggle with his sexual identity, but the cons I mentioned kept me from continuing the story long enough to find out how that's resolved.

Whomp, whomp.
Profile Image for Barbara.
530 reviews9 followers
January 30, 2014
Whenever I read a young adult book, I’m always thinking in the back of my head to what kind of reader would this book appeal? As I read Grasshopper Jungle, I could not quite figure out which of my students would like this book. The short sentences and chapters and invasion of the giant praying mantises premise might appeal to the reluctant reader but the fractured, looping storytelling takes too long to get to the action. Reluctant readers like action. I even became impatient. Austin, the 16-year-old narrator, has two best friends, Robby and Shann and he loves them both. In fact, Robby came out as gay and Austin is confused about his own sexual identity because he’s going out with Shann. The setting is modern day, 2013 or so Iowa and Austin spends most of the novel wondering whether he is normal or not because he’s attracted to both Robby and Shann. He is not completely gay but he is not completely straight. Hasn’t he heard of bisexuality in Ealing, Iowa? The book has a big science fiction-y element to it but it will not appeal to science fiction fans because the explanations for the giant, man-eating bugs come fairly late in the book. The threads that connect the history that Austin has written over the years are vague and raise more questions than they answer. How did he know about the relationship his great-grandfather had? What is the point of his brother fighting in Afghanistan and having “his balls blown off” and losing the lower part of his leg? The character development of two of the most important characters to the story, Robby and Shann, is weak. We learn more about Ollie Jungfrau than we do about the two of them. I like different, I like quirky in a novel but this just did not work for me.
Do people feel obligated to give a book a stellar review because they got an advanced reader copy? I call this the tyranny of the 5 stars. Maybe I shouldn’t be so honest or I won’t get any more books from First to Read. Hmmmm.
Disclaimer: I received this ARC free from Penguin’s First to Read and this did not influence my review. In addition, I was not compensated for this review.
Profile Image for Amy.
197 reviews189 followers
February 22, 2014
Is it possible that Andrew Smith is capable of writing a novel that doesn't fucking rock my world. Umm, the answer is no, no he isn't. Smith is a fucking literary mastermind.
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