Wednesday 26 February 2014

Grasshopper Jungle, Andrew Smith

Pages: 394
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Release Date: 27th February 2014
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

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 two things. This is the truth. This is history. It’s the end of the world. And nobody knows anything about it.

Grasshopper Jungle has one of the most intriguing and original premises I’ve ever come across, and the inside of the covers definitely lived up to that! It’s weird, gross and utterly brilliant, actually.

The novel is pretty explicit from beginning to end, in language, sex, sexuality and grotesque imagery. It was thoroughly refreshing actually. I learnt the hard way not to eat my lunch while reading about six-foot-tall praying mantises breaking out of a human body and to angle the book away from nosy train passengers to protect them from the constant references to sex. All of the descriptions and references and recollections were repeated over and over again and I’m not quite sure why Andrew Smith did it, but it made an impact, and I remembered who was who in Austin complicated family history much easier than I would have normally! I would normally expect that to annoy the crap out of me, and although I noticed the repetition, it really didn’t.

Austin has a lot of obsessions, and history and the recording of it is one of them. He is recording the end of the world, the people involved in it and every detail surrounding it that he and Robby can find. Austin made an effort to record every thought and every action, regardless of how it made him look and the honesty was so different, so pure in a way that even though he didn’t make the best choices, I was so endeared to him. His confusion over Robby and Shann was constant and visceral and I really felt for him.

With everything this novel threw at me, I still wasn’t expecting Grasshopper Jungle to end the way it did, but Andrew Smith surprised me. The ending was unconventional and virtually unseen in YA and, like this novel as a whole, refreshing. The tied up storylines, cut and dried decisions, firm relationships and complete order to the world weren’t lined up like they usually are and I turned the last page with a smile, nodding my head in satisfaction.

Grasshopper Jungle is twisted, strange and completely original. Highly, highly recommended. Just don’t eat while reading it...

Thanks to Electric Monkey for sending me a copy to review.


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