Grasshopper Jungle

Grasshopper Jungle
Author: Andrew Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are days that define our lives, sometimes without even seeming particularly outstanding. Austin Sczerba was having one of those days, but at the time, it was just another day hanging out with his best friend Robby, skating and smoking lazily. . . . Then they ended up getting beaten up for “being queers” and had their shoes thrown on the roof of the local nearly-abandoned mall. Late that night, sneaking out with Austin’s girlfriend Shann, the three return to the mall to retrieve their stuff. Only, things get weird when the two boys leave Shann in the car to nap while they climb up to the roof. And during the course of the evening, things happen that none of them ever expected: kisses, secret stashes of old experiments gone wrong, the beginning of the end of the world. Poor Austin’s soooo confused!

I really enjoyed reading Grasshopper Jungle. Having said that, if I had read this two years ago, I probably would have freaked out. Because, let’s face it, this book is spilling over with swearing, smoking, sex, and general over-the-top irreverence of all sorts. And if you’ve got a problem with that, you should probably avoid reading this one. Still, somehow Smith takes all of that and melds it into Austin’s character, making it more than that. He’s a complex, confused teenage boy, and this story drags the reader into all that complicated mess–a complicated mess that sees the connections between past and present, between all sorts of seemingly unrelated occurrences that do eventually loop around to connect. I would tend to compare Smith’s writing to that of Sherman Alexie; he writes the world as he sees it and doesn’t give a damn what anyone else thinks about what he’s writing. This is the sort of book that–if they ever bother to read it–parent groups would be up in arms about. But at the same time, there’s something vibrant and engaging about the story. Honestly, the one thing I really had issue with is not related to any of that at all–rather, it’s that the science fiction aspect is very old-school B-rated movie, in other words, kind of cheesy. But, that’s really just a carrier for the other aspects of the story; it’s one of those books in which the underlying plot is almost unimportant, comparatively. I think I would recommend Grasshopper Jungle, but only to those adult readers who are able to view it open-mindedly (and NOT to younger readers; 18+ in my opinion).

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