GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE BY ANDREW SMITH - BOOK REVIEW

You know when you read a book and you aren't really sure what is happening or why but you're just along for the ride and it's great? That was this book for me. I'd be willing to bet that there is some deeper message here, but at face value, this is a hilarious and just all-around good book.

Hello everyone!

I'm back with another book review, today it is Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith.


The story follows Austin, a teen in Iowa who spends his days hanging out with his best friend, Robby, and his girlfriend, Shann. Life is pretty boring until Austin and Robby unknowingly release a plague that turns people into giant grasshopper/praying mantis bugs why are trying to take over the world, or at least their small town. While this isn't much of a synopsis, it's all I really want to say about what happens in the book.

Smith does a phenomenal job of using this seemingly mundane and simple storyline to showcase a nuanced understanding of his characters. While the grasshoppers make for an exciting story, Smith uses this opportunity to broach topics such as sexual confusion, bisexuality, and hetero-normative expectations and assumptions. While these topics are heavy hitting, they are likely extremely relevant to the readers of YA fiction and Smith is very aware of his audience here. I thought he did a really good job of incorporating discussion about these things without making it feel forced.

If you've been following me for any number of years, you will know that I love a good magical realism story. I suppose this could be more science fiction based, but I'm going to call it magical realism because Smith, like one of my favourite magical realist authors A.S. King, uses this stretching and re-shaping of reality to talk about important and difficult topics without going out and blatantly talking about it. The subtlety and care often used in magical realism is what gets me, and is what helps make this book stand out.

I've only read one other book by Smith but I loved the writing style in this one. It flowed very well and was paced perfectly, but the way in which he describes things - it didn't put me in the story, but it did make me SEE the story. Despite the number of books I read, very seldom will I find one that is written like I could see it being played out in my mind. It's not just that Smith uses descriptive language, but that he is able to weave a story that is simple enough to visualize, but nuanced enough to create a specific image. I'm not sure that makes any sense, but it's hard to explain.

I did have a couple issues with this book, Shann, Austin's girlfriend kinda gets the short end of the stick, especially with that ending and isn't generally treated great. Sometimes I felt like she was only there to solidify the bisexual element of the story and I spent most of the novel feeling bad for her and about how she was treated. I know this was Austin's story, but I think there could have been a little more care used when dealing with Shann.

Overall, this book is not going to be for everyone, but, largely speaking, I think it was for me.