Book Review,  Reviews

Grasshopper Jungle – Andrew Smith

“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 umber and dumber shit. 
This is my history. 
There are things in here: babies with tow 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.”

When Austin and his best friend Robby, whom he may be in love with at exactly the same time as being in love with his girlfriend, bare witness to some seriously strange things in Austin’s Boss’s office, they don’t realise what they see is the start of the end of the world. Things would be fine if they were never there in the first place but they were followed in by the small town of Ealing, Iowa’s resident losers, who accidentally cause the chemical reaction between Contained M1 Plague Strain 412E and the blood it needs to create six foot tall praying mantises. They don’t know this at the time though of course, no… Austin and Robby are witnesses to the beginning of the end and are happily ignorant until it all comes crumbling down on top of them. Who knows what will happen next. 

This is a weird book and do not expect to pick it up for a quick read. While it is interesting and I loved its style… it is most definitely a marmite book and you will know as soon as you read a few pages if it is for you or not. 
The story is great, its a typical teen book about the confusions of the body, mind and sexual pretence to start off with and I loved it for its base value at that… then things start getting even weirder. Its full of foreshadowing and Austin is not an entirely reliable narrator, even though he is in his words trying to create a very reliable history – complete with people shitting. He is confused and highly sexually driven and I loved him for his honesty and complete craziness. 
When talking about the story I could go off on many tangents, mainly because thats what Austin did when narrating the book. He went off on one about the Vice President, war, his great-great-great-grandfather and a lot of balls and horniness… but it all interconnected in the end which is one of the things I loved the most about this book. It all seemed completely random as you were reading it but once you get to the point its not random at all. 
I am not going to lie to you, this isn’t an easy read. The tangents Austin goes off on, his very unique style of narrating and the blood, guts and gore – not to mention sperm – all over the book really have you stopping and start and reading slowly to figure out the point. It took me over a week to read and that is a terrible record for me… of course this was an exceptionally busy week but still I usually read a book like this in a day on a weekend and that week included at least three weekend days! 
The sci-fi element of the book wasn’t particularly head-aching and I got on with it well… I understood the basics and that was important to me because I usually get lost on any science in books. The sexuality within the book was more of a major deal but even then I think it was about coming to terms with yourself and no one else – regardless of your sexuality – rather than actually coming out or anything like that. The book didn’t hold anything back when it came to sex and was rather graphic in content in places, not to mention swear-y so I am not sure if I would recommend it to anyone really young or immature! 
As I said, this book is weird so its really hard to put my feelings into words. It will definitely not be forgotten in a hurry and I really did love it but felt it did drag a bit too much and it took a while for Austin to get to the point – other than that it was brilliant though. I think the best parts of it were the chapter titles and how relevant they were once you finished the chapter and how well they were used. I loved that they didn’t mean a thing as you read them but one you finished the chapter it was obvious that they were brilliant. Also Austin’s profound claims were brilliant and really shaped him in my mind as a character. His connection to the people he loved was great too – honestly beyond the weird, this book is brilliant, but it will take a lot to look that far into it! 

Grasshopper Jungle was published by Electric Monkey on February 27th. My copy was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

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