January 19, 2015 • Cee • Reviews

Andrew Smith - Grasshopper Jungle

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
February 11, 2014
Dutton Juvenile
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Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of how he and his best friend, Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

To make matters worse, Austin’s hormones are totally oblivious; they don’t care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He’s stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it’s up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.


First Sentence: “I read somewhere that humans are genetically predisposed to record history.”

Words to describe Grasshopper Jungle: Fucked up, immensely funny, extremely crude, and weirdly entertaining.

Grasshopper Jungle essentially follows three stories that are woven into each other: 1. Austin Szerba and his best friend going about their day in regular, boring Ealing, Iowa (where the former tries to deal with his mounting horniness for his best friend and his girlfriend, Shann), unbeknownst that they brought about the end of humanity; 2. the history of Austin’s Polish ancestors and how they got to Ealing; and 3. the adventures of an army of six-foot praying mantises that have invaded Ealing with the intention of killing, eating, and procreating.

I loved it in the “oh god, what am I reading? Oh god, that’s disgusting. Why can’t I look away? Why can’t I  put this down?” It’s so unique both in content and the way it’s written. So so crude. I couldn’t stop devouring it. It was just so honest and an excellent change-up from the usually YA stories I’ve read, and I appreciated it.

Warning: This isn’t for the faint of hearts or people who don’t like crudeness. It’s disturbing, disgusting, and just plain awesome.

Six Reasons Why I Loved Grasshopper Jungle

  • Austin (and everything about this book) is funny!

Andrew Smith does a beautiful job of getting in the head of a teenage boy (not surprising since he was once one). What enters Austin’s head makes me laugh because his thoughts are just so honest and completely crude. It’s short and to the point. Do you know how many times I guffawed at Austin and his thoughts? At his increasing horniness for his best friend that enters into crudeness? At his confusion of his sexual orientation? At his philosophical thoughts that eventually circles around back to sex? At the wonderful repetition of the narrative? Countless times. I appreciated it all.

Everything about this book is funny too. It’s funny in the “It’s so bizarre, so I’m gonna laugh because this is frightening and fascinating” kind of way. Does that make the book bad? Nope. Not at all. I loved it. It was just so insightful.

  • The praying mantises are creepy and terrifying.

Every time the book talks about the praying mantises, I wanted to shrink into a ball because oh god, you guys, reading about them was so creepy and terrifying. These insects only exist to do two things, and those two things will scar you even though it’s perfectly natural for all species. It’s so disgusting, but you know the weird beauty of it all? As Andrew Smith puts it, “It’s the circle of life.” It’s such an accurate statement that it makes me want to cry.

And you know why it’s also creepy and terrifying? Because of how similar humans and the giant praying mantises are to each other. Disturbingly so. It’s the way that Andrew Smith parallels both their stories that makes it striking and scary. It’s so well done.

  • The friendship between Austin, Robby, and Shann is so sweet.

I just love the friendships in this book, especially Austin and Robby’s. They’ve been through the tough times with each other, and it’s great to have these two guys have each other’s back even when things get confusing for them. Also, when you add in Shann? OT3. At least, they have the makings of one. Will the end of humanity and shifting feelings bring about more? Maybe.

  • Austin makes philosophical points about history.

I just love how important history is for Austin. I’m a big fan of history and keeping records for historical purposes. I love reading about what people did and what happened. It’s great to see a character being so honest and philosophical about history and how it portrays things.

  • The narrative tends to repeat itself to relay history.

The narrative tends to repeat itself over and over again; it can be grating at times, but I thought it was a great addition that fitted perfectly. It makes sense though because Austin is very interested in history and interested in keeping ahold of it. He doesn’t make you forget where he comes from, and the importance of how the male members of the Szerba came to be.

One thing I loved, which I know many readers find annoying, is the way that the stories are woven together. The narrative will start talking about Austin and Robby’s adventure, and then tell you, at that moment while Austin and Robby are goofing around, this is what’s happening with Austin’s brother recovering from a wound he sustained in Afghanistan, or this is what the praying mantises are doing. It’s like experiencing everybody’s day in just one quick moment.


Grasshopper Jungle is an incredibly bizarre, yet funny book that honestly portrays a horny teenage boy, as he and his best friend discover the deep-rooted secret of Ealing that may or may not have something to do with the six-foot praying mantises terrorizing their home. It’s so different from all the books I’ve read, and I love it for it.

I know you’re all wondering: Do Austin and Robbie really find out about the praying mantises’ invasion? Do they save the world? Well, you should probably read this if you want to know more.


2 Responses to “REVIEW | Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith”

  1. Claire says:

    Giant… preying.. mantis? I feel like I have to read this just because it sounds so bizarre.

  2. This book is indeed bizarre and disturbing on so many levels. I’ve found that people either really like it or really loathe it. Personally, I really enjoyed it.

    Terri M., the Director
    Second Run Reviews

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