Parents' Guide to

Grasshopper Jungle

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Brilliant end-of-the-world chronicle is unforgettably weird.

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A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 1 parent review

age 14+

A violent, insane love story

GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE is a history. This is all true. All roads converge at the point of Austin Szerba's pen poised at the top of a blank page in a leather-bound log-book from the 70s, courtesy of McKeon Industries. "And that was my day. You know what I mean." Austin Szerba, a cigarette-smoking Lutheran boy, narrates this post-apocalyptic journey of self-discovery and disaster. He is accompanied by his best friend, who he is completely in love with, Robby Brees; occasionally his girlfriend, Shan Collins, tags along for the ride. He is in love with her, too. It's all very confusing. Except it's not for the reader. The reader perfectly understands Austin's confusion, because we all experience it, too. This is not a cookie-cutter story about the end of the world and/or being in love. This is a story about how everything can be completely screwed up, but you just have to deal with it. "What am I going to do, Ingrid?" Austin asks his beloved golden retriever. By the end of the story, Austin still has no idea what to do. And that is real. That is honest. That is how real life works. The rest of the story has nothing to do with how real life works. Some scientists at McKeon Industries try to create Unstoppable Corn to fuel the demand during the 70s. Then they try to create Unstoppable Soldiers for the government. They succeed, and proceed to be almost completely destroyed by their creations: six foot-tall praying mantis-like monsters that only want to do two things. Austin and Robby inadvertently set those monsters loose on the world, and they must fight back to save their friends, family, and the entire planet. Be prepared for the unabashed sexuality of sixteen year-old boys, the carnage of murder and copulation conducted by the Unstoppable Soldiers, and a general whirlwind of insanity. Like Austin Szerba says, "Everything fell into place, all right. But things dropped into place so hard the entire world broke." GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE is gory and profane and brutal and honest and meaningful and it is all true. You know what I mean. Andrew Smith wrote this book not for anyone but himself, and I respect that so much. Make sure you read the acknowledgements page. Maybe read it before you start the book. Just so you know how it came to exist.

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Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1 ):
Kids say (6 ):

It's a testament to Andrew Smith's considerable skills as a writer that reading this book is reminiscent of reading One Hundred Years of Solitude or Slaughterhouse Five or Everything Is Illuminated. The plot is so scrambled that Austin tells you on the very first page that it includes "babies with two 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." And that's basically all you need to know. The plot goes backward, sideways, and forward all at once, and on every page you realize what a genius Smith is to write this book about history and life and the importance of books for clever teens who will appreciate his candor, authenticity, and mastery of language.

As the bibliophile Austin so acutely explains, "you could never get everything in a book," but "good books are always about everything." It's a bold statement, but Smith is clearly up to the task of writing an incredibly good book. Like any other remarkable book, this one is not for everyone, especially younger teens who aren't mature enough to read the word "horny" without breaking into fits of laughter. But mature young readers -- and, for that matter, adults -- should take in Smith's command of a story that smoothly includes references to volcanoes, the Holocaust, Vietnam, the Rolling Stones, BMX bikes, the vice president's sex life, and unstoppable Iowa corn. Prepare to be sad when the book is over, because Smith has written one unforgettable, hilarious, and heartbreaking tale about what makes us human and happy and passionate about life.

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