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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

I had really, really high expectations for this book, and I think that influenced my 2.5 of 5 stars rating.  For me, Grasshopper Jungle was solidly middle ground.  When it first came out, I read tons of reviews of it that praised it like it was the New New Testament in high school boy literature, but I just didn't find that to be true.

I don't want to be negative, and I am able to say some positive things about the book.  For example, it is totally 110% a high school boy book.  There's weird monster bugs to fight, a pretty girl to save, lots and lots of talk about body odor and masturbation and sex and balls.  Andrew Smith doesn't shy away from using language, either.  (So you may want to take that into account before giving it to a younger teen.)  All in all, it read very authentic to the sixteen-year-old male brain.  I could absolutely see myself recommending this to an older reluctant reader.

I can also say that this book has really unique plot points.  First, the giant bugs.  While that has been done a number of times in movies and television, I don't recall seeing too many giant-bugs-attacking-humanity plots in books.  Also, even though giant-bugs-attacking-humanity sounds pretty outlandish at first glance, Smith manages to write the novel in such a way that the reader could find themselves nodding, like, "yes, I could see that happening in Iowa."  The whole book reads very contemporary, with a sci-fi element thrown in for added kapow.  Secondly, the main character's sexuality is never established.  This was praised over and over again in reviews when the book was first released.  LGBTQ issues are definitely included in the "we need diverse books" movement, and this book helps to satisfy that.  Austin is very confused about his feelings toward his best friend and his girlfriend throughout the book.  (His best friend is gay and his girlfriend is straight.  He cares deeply for them both.)  Grasshopper Jungle shows a situation where a teen doesn't know their sexual orientation (he's not "fighting" it; he honestly can't decide) and it's ok.  Teens can be a very confused sector of our society, and they need to see themselves, and that confusion, in the books they read.

Now for the unfortunate detractors: language and repetition. Grasshopper Jungle is chock full of s***. Literally. It felt overwhelming, and distracted me from the actual story. I know teenage boys cuss, but this seemed superfluous. It's not just the actual word usage, either. Felt like every page had at least one (if not more!) mentions of horniness and erections. There's also a lot of repetition. Mentioning that his grandfather died while relieving himself in Italy during World War II felt entirely unnecessary the first time.... The fourth time it was brought up, I was way over it.

Overall: interesting, unique premise that has a potential audience... Unfortunately, that audience didn't include me.

Interesting note: I read Winger (same author) and loved it! So don't discount Andrew Smith on the basis of Grasshopper Jungle.


Tynga is a 32 years old mom of two, from Montreal, working as a lab technician in an hospital specialized in heart disease. In her free time, she enjoys reading all things Paranormal and photography.

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2 People left their mark' :

  1. Hi - Great review. Doesn't sound like a book that would attract me at all. :(
    @dino0726 from 
    FictionZeal - Impartial, Straightforward Fiction Book Reviews

  2. Hmm, I LOVED this book! Sorry that you didn't. I haven't read Winger yet, and wonder if I will love it as much since you are kind of opposite of me on this one.