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Grasshopper Jungle
Cover of Grasshopper Jungle
Grasshopper Jungle
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A 2015 Michael L. Printz Honor Book
Winner of the 2014 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction

"Raunchy, bizarre, smart and compelling." —Rolling Stone

"Grasshopper Jungle is simultaneously creepy and hilarious. Reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut's in "Slaughterhouse Five," in the best sense." —New York Times Book Review

In the small town of Ealing, Iowa, Austin and his best friend, Robby, have accidentally unleashed an unstoppable army. An army of horny, hungry, six-foot-tall praying mantises that only want to do two things.
This is the truth. This is history.
It's the end of the world. And nobody knows anything about it.
You know what I mean.

Funny, intense, complex, and brave, Grasshopper Jungle brilliantly weaves together everything from testicle-dissolving genetically modified corn to the struggles of recession-era, small-town America in this groundbreaking coming-of-age stunner.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
A 2015 Michael L. Printz Honor Book
Winner of the 2014 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction

"Raunchy, bizarre, smart and compelling." —Rolling Stone

"Grasshopper Jungle is simultaneously creepy and hilarious. Reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut's in "Slaughterhouse Five," in the best sense." —New York Times Book Review

In the small town of Ealing, Iowa, Austin and his best friend, Robby, have accidentally unleashed an unstoppable army. An army of horny, hungry, six-foot-tall praying mantises that only want to do two things.
This is the truth. This is history.
It's the end of the world. And nobody knows anything about it.
You know what I mean.

Funny, intense, complex, and brave, Grasshopper Jungle brilliantly weaves together everything from testicle-dissolving genetically modified corn to the struggles of recession-era, small-town America in this groundbreaking coming-of-age stunner.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
Available formats-
  • Kindle Book
  • OverDrive Read
  • EPUB eBook
Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    6.2
  • Lexile:
  • Interest Level:
    UG
  • Text Difficulty:
    5

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Awards-
Excerpts-
  • From the book

    ***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.***


    Copyright © 2014 by Andrew Smith



    Part 1:
    Ealing

    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 shit.

    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.

    KIMBER DRIVE

    Robby Brees and I made the road the Ealing Mall is built on.

    Before we outgrew our devotion to BMX bicycles, the constant back-and-forth ruts we cut through the field we named Grasshopper Jungle became the natural sweep of Kimber Drive, as though the dirt graders and street engineers who paved it couldn't help but follow the tracks Robby and I had laid.

    Robby and I were the gods of concrete rivers, and history does prove to us that wherever boys ride bicycles, paved roadways ribbon along afterward like intestinal tapeworms.

    So the mall went up—built like a row of happy lower teeth— grinned for a while, and then about a year ago some of the shops there began shutting down, blackening out like cavities when people left our town for other, better places.

    BMX riding was for middle-school kids.

    We still had our bikes, and I believe that there were times Robby and I thought about digging them out from the cobwebbed corners of our families' garages. But now that we were in high school—or at least in high school classes, because we'd attended Curtis Crane Lutheran Academy since kindergarten—we rode skateboards, and also managed to sneak away in Robby's old car.

    We were in tenth grade, and Robby could drive, which was very convenient for me and my girlfriend, Shann Collins.

    We could always depend on Robby. And I counted on the hope—the erotic plan I fantasized over—that one night he'd drive us out along the needle-straight roads cutting through the seas of cornfields surrounding Ealing, and Robby wouldn't say anything at all as I climbed on top of Shann and had sex with her right there on the piles of Robby's laundry that always seemed to lie scattered and unwashed in the dirty old Ford Explorer his dad left behind.

    ———

    FIXING FEET

    On The Friday that ended our painfully slow first week after spring break, Robby and I took our boards and skated through the filthy back alley of Grasshopper Jungle.

    Nobody cared about skaters anymore.

    Well, at least nobody cared among the four remaining businesses that managed to stay open in the Ealing Mall after the McKeon plant closed down: The laundromat Robby never quite made it to, The Pancake House, and the liquor and thrift stores owned by Shann's stepdad.

    So we could skate there, and did pretty much whatever we wanted to do.

    Judging from the empty beer cans, the mysterious floral sleeper sofa we were certain was infested with pubic lice, and the pungent smell of piss in the alley, it was clear everyone else in Ealing was similarly okay with the no-limits code of conduct in Grasshopper Jungle, too.

    And that proved to be an unfortunate fact for me and Robby on that Friday.

    We had built ramps from sagging flaps of plywood that we laid across a flight of concrete steps behind a vacant unit that used to...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from November 4, 2013
    Assuming the role of a historian (a wildly obscene historian), 16-year-old Austin Szerba chronicles the end of the world as it begins in his small Iowa town. Austin is in love with two people—his girlfriend, Shann, and his best friend Robby; neither of them is okay with it but, as Austin frequently repeats, “I was so confused.” This confusion worsens when a series of missteps results in the propagation of six-foot tall, superstrong, mantislike Unstoppable Soldiers that portend a new world order on Earth. Sex is everywhere in this novel (only some of it involving humans), but Smith (Winger) describes it in purposefully clinical and utterly unromantic terms, making connections between the Unstoppable Soldiers—who “wanted only to fuck and eat”—and human beings, whose preoccupations aren’t, perhaps, so different. Filled with gonzo black humor, Smith’s outrageous tale makes serious points about scientific research done in the name of patriotism and profit, the intersections between the personal and the global, the weight of history on the present, and the often out-of-control sexuality of 16-year-old boys. Ages 14–up. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from December 1, 2013
    A meanderingly funny, weirdly compelling and thoroughly brilliant chronicle of "the end of the world, and shit like that." This is not your everyday novel of the apocalypse, though it has the essential elements: a (dead) mad scientist, a fabulous underground bunker, voracious giant praying mantises and gobs of messy violence. As narrated by hapless Polish-Iowan sophomore Austin Szerba, though, the "shit like that" and his love for it all take center stage: his family, including his older brother, whose testicles and one leg are blown off in Iraq; his mute, perpetually defecating golden retriever; the dead-end town of Ealing, Iowa; his girlfriend, Shann Collins, whom he desperately wants to have sex with; and most importantly, his gay best friend, Robby Brees, to whom he finds himself as attracted as he is to Shann. His preoccupation with sex is pervasive; the unlikeliest things make Austin horny, and his candor in reporting this is endearing. In a cannily disjointed, Vonnegut-esque narrative, the budding historian weaves his account of the giant-insect apocalypse in and around his personal family history and his own odyssey through the hormonal stew that is adolescence. He doesn't lie, and he is acutely conscious of the paradox that is history: "You could never get everything in a book. / Good books are always about everything." By that measure, then, this is a mighty good book. It is about everything that really matters. Plus voracious giant praying mantises. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

    COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from February 1, 2014

    Gr 10 Up-It used to be that the only interesting events to occur in crumbling Ealing, Iowa happened between the pages of 16-year-old Austin Szerba's "history" journals. Austin's journals are elaborate and uncensored records about sex; his love for his girlfriend, Shann; his growing attraction for his best friend, Robby; his unique Polish ancestors; even Ealing's decrepit mini-mall where he and Robby hang out. Shann tells Austin, "I love how, whenever you tell a story, you go backwards and forwards and tell me everything else that could possibly be happening in every direction, like an explosion." And that's exactly how Austin narrates the end of the world when a twist of fate sparks the birth of mutant, people-eating praying mantises. Austin not only records the hilarious and bizarre tale of giant, copulating bugs but his own sexual confusion and his fear about hurting the people he loves. Award-winning author Smith has cleverly used a B movie science fiction plot to explore the intricacies of teenage sexuality, love, and friendship. Austin's desires might garner buzz and controversy among adults but not among the teenage boys who can identify with his internal struggles. This novel is proof that when an author creates solely for himself-as Smith notes in the acknowledgments section-the result is an original, honest, and extraordinary work that speaks directly to teens as it pushes the boundaries of young adult literature.-Kimberly Garnick Giarratano, Rockaway Township Public Library, NJ

    Copyright 2014 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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