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.
With Grasshopper Jungle I got exactly what I wanted: a funny, strange story that is able to to make me laugh out loud and a unique end of the world setting that was thrilling. A story that overall amused me just like Andrew Smith always does. Grasshopper Jungle felt like a mix of The Marbury Lens (with its weird and fresh setting) and Winger (with its interesting coming of age story).
I only read a few books that were written like this one before but non of them were as messed up as this one. And I mean that in a good way. The story is told from 16-years old Austin and he is looking back on all this, writing down his ‘history’. It’ sometimes a bit chaotic how he tells this story. It’s not a straight line of events. He sometimes tells you about his granddad’s past and he also jumps ahead of the story and tells you what’s going to come. This underlines Austin’s character who clearly is not a good writer. He sometimes even repeats certain facts This chaotic writing perfectly fits the story and Austin, and makes the story even more enjoyable imo.
To like this book you need to be comfortable being in the head of a 16-years old who is horny all the time, even in the weirdest circumstances, and tells you all about it.
Have you ever read about human-sized mantises who do only two things: eat and f*ck? Yeah, me neither. And that’s really what this story is about.
On the one hand there is Austin’s story who is insecure about himself and on his way of finding out who he is and what he wants. This part alone made me laugh out loud multiple times. It also comes with some rather sad parts when Austin messes up because of his insecurity.
And then come along these mantises. How it initially comes to this end of world scenario is really strange (a lot of sperm is involved!). You’ll get to see for yourself (again and again) what these creatures like to do because they really do nothing else than eat and f*ck, preferably at the same time. I never thought a story about humans going extinct could be that funny but when you get to read things like “Devin Stoddard continued pumping semen into Eilen Pope even after she had eaten his entire head” (Devin and Eilen being mantises), how can you not laugh about all this.
As strange and entertaining as all this was, it was also thrilling to find out if and how Austin and his friends are able to fight these creatures or how else this is going to end.
What makes this story realistic is that Andrew Smith makes them talk like 16-years old. You’ll come across a lot of “Uh”s and “Um”s and the like and I loved that. I hate when direct speech turns into something the characters would never talk like in real life. Maybe others will be bored by this simplistic, repetitive speech but that is what these boys are like and it would feel rather unrealistic if they would talk differently.
To enjoy this story you have to appreciate this strange and crazy setting and also be comfortable reading it from a teenage boy’s pov who seems to think with his penis rather than his brain most of the time. Grasshopper Jungle is a unique story about humans going extinct that will make you laugh out loud.