In the Stacks: a review of Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle


Wow… first blog of the year, this is very exciting! Well dear readers, I would like to start this new blog of the New Year by letting you all know about a fascinating book I just finished before enjoying my holiday break. BOY! What a book it was. Not something I would recommend before huddling close with your family by a fire enjoying some hot cocoa and watching the “A Christmas Story” marathon on cable… but enough about me.

Here’s the setup of this book: take a boy with proud Polish origins and a penchant for telling the most random histories of people, places, and things.  Add in some special pizza, a bunch of sexually frustrated/confused teenagers, and somehow,  an exposed plague that breeds human-sized praying mantises and there you have (drum roll please)Grasshopper Jungle: A History” by Andrew Smith. Now I’m still not 100% up to date on my YA fiction, but I can say it’d be a stretch to argue that this is quite possibly one of THE MOST controversial Young Adult fiction books you can presently read.

Now, I really do NOT want to share too much about this book for you all and risk spoiling it for everyone. So I’ll just try my hand at giving away the basics. Grasshopper Jungle” tells the story of Austin Szerba, a 16-year-old living in Ealing, Iowa. Austin has a long time best friend named Robbie and a wonderful girlfriend named Shann. Robbie just so happens to be gay, and Shann, though accepting of Robbie, is an old-fashioned conservative type of girl. Here’s the hitch about that set of relationships… Austin grows to have strong sexual fantasies about Robbie AND Shann. Now switching to a different note: one day, Austin and Robbie just happen to be hanging out by their local mall in Ealing, and through a set of crazy misfortunes, find that they need to make a venture to the roof of said mall to retrieve their shoes. Don’t ask! Now once they get to the roof, the boys see a set of odd items that seemly have no place on top of a roof.  Now… as the story progresses, it all explains itself. Added to which, following the roof, the boys end up inside the antiquities (thrift) shop inside the mall where Austin and Robbie find even more bizarre items locked away inside the manager’s office, items that soon unravel a dark secret that has lived within Ealing for decades. LITERALLY WITHIN EALING!!! Don’t get confused now guys, again, it explains itself when you read the book. Ha-ha

I could go on and on about the progress of the story. But… that wouldn’t be as much fun. I feel with what I’ve said thus far, if you still feel the need to check out the book itself for further enlightenment, then all the more power to you. I mean… praying mantises, crazy teenagers, and weird things on roofs. That’s not even the half of it all! You guys just have to read it for more info. I will say that Andrew Smith very craftily wrote this story. For as Austin is spinning his narrative about the unraveling of this present day situation, he is also filling us in on past histories of the other townspeople, people around the world, as well as histories of his relatives in the old country (Poland) and their immigration here to the United States. The various histories seem to be at times quite aggravating as they are so eclectic and seem so unnecessary. Yet… in the end… it all comes together perfectly. Good job, Andrew Smith. Also! I even hear word that “Grasshopper Jungle” might very well be coming to a theater near you. Edgar Wright for Sony Pictures has begun the task of directing this new age adaptation. I look forward to seeing how this very unique story will translate to the silver screen. Yet maybe after this one… it’ll be the green screen (That will make sense once you see the book). Ok dear readers; get to reading if you dare. For this could be one of the most eye-opening, hair-raising stories you will EVER read! Until next time guys… stay classy… stay reading.

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Thank you awesome amazing Joseph for taking this fabulous photo!!!


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