February 27th 2014
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 to do two things. This is the truth. This is history. It's the end of the world. And nobody knows anything about it.
Funny, intense, complex and brave, Grasshopper Jungle is a groundbreaking, genre-bending, coming-of-age stunner.
This book was just wild from start to finish. It is so weird and so gross and so great I don't even have the words to describe my feelings about this book. Though that's probably more because I still do not really know how I feel about it... This is starting to look like a recurring theme with my reviews. I did definitely like it a whole bloody lot though. But I'm still not sure why, so I should probably think on that.
One thing I know I definitely loved about it was Austin, and specifically Austin's general sort of confusion about his sexuality, and the fact that he was such a teenage boy in all his horniness and historian-ness (okay, maybe not a teenage boy thing necessarily, but whatever) and everything else-ness. I appreciated the fact that he was questioning his sexuality because there's a lot of books about straight people, and there are not enough books about other sexualities. And from my limited experience, it seems like a lot of those are books about people who know that they're gay/bi/not straight. But again, I have read only a few books about LGBT characters (which sucks). Anyway, back to the point! I am a teenager. I am not going to lie, I'm not really sure about my sexuality. That's probably not something I should openly admit when I have very little idea what I am/who I want to do the do with/whether I want to do the do at all/whatever. I AM CONFUSED. As such, reading a book about someone who is confused makes me feel a hell of a lot better. Also, putting it in the context of this crazy praying-mantis-apocalypse really normalises it. So I think that was a very clever move. Though I would just like to state for the record that I am nowhere near as horny as Austin is. He is a real dynamo. I literally do not understand how someone can be that horny and still function. For real, is that how horny teenage boys are? Is it not tiring? Boys are weird.
So. I also really liked the way the story was told. Austin thinks of himself as a historian, and the way that this book is written is like he is writing his history as it happens, if that makes sense? He writes about his ancestors and there's a lot of repetition and sometimes it would go off, like one chapter Austin and Robby and Shann would be doing something, and then the next chapter it would be like 'At that same moment, some people were getting eaten by giant bugs'. There's a lot of referring back to things that have already happened, or that has already been said, as it is written in such a way that all of these things are linked. Like, you'd read about one thing and be like 'what is even happening' and then a hundred pages later it would come back and it'd be like 'WHOA WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING', mainly because this book is hella weird and you never really know what's happening because regardless of how clearly Austin Sczerba puts everything, there's still essentially a bunch of hungry, horny praying mantis-things eating people. And a surprising amount of bug sex. I will say, I have never before read a book with so much bug sex in it (meaning any. And hopefully NEVER AGAIN.) Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, this book is really smart. It's written in this straight forward, frank, efficient way and I think that's why the weirdness just works. This book is not pissing about. It is frank and unashamed and you don't really have a choice but to just go with it. Embrace the weirdness. Embrace the gross.
Initially, it might seem a lot to take in. When I first heard about this book, and found out what it was about, I thought it might be too much. How could you possibly write a book that manages to be about all of the complex things, and that is also just a complete genrefuck. I was half convinced that Grasshopper Jungle was going to be genius, and half convinced that it would be a hot mess. But I think that it was incredibly successful in what it was trying to do. And again, I think that has a lot to do with the style of the book. Though I will say that I think because of the way it was written, there was kind of a detachment despite the fact that it was in first person. Though that may have just been me. But I have very little negative to say about this book. Obviously it's not perfect, or the best book I've ever read, but I did enjoy it a lot and it's just so smart in how it all fits together. I do not believe that there are any coincidences in this book, any unnecessary details. EVERYTHING is connected, somehow, in this book, pretty much.
So, yeah. Those are my thoughts on Grasshopper Jungle. It is weird and wonderful. I think you should read it. Unless you think you wouldn't like it. In which case, don't. BUT don't let the bug sex put you off.
(I hope I don't regret posting this.)