Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith’s young adult novel Grasshopper Jungle is set in the small town of Ealing, Iowa, where 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 not your everyday novel of the apocalypse, though it has the essential elements: a (dead) mad scientist, a fabulous underground bunker and gobs of messy violence. In fact, Grasshopper Jungle is so evocative, it ended up on our list of the Best Teen Books of 2014. We talk to Smith in this week’s Kirkus TV interview about the end of the world and other fun topics!


KIRKUS REVIEW

A meanderingly funny, weirdly compelling and thoroughly brilliant chronicle of “the end of the world, and shit like that.”

This is not your everyday novel of the apocalypse, though it has the essential elements: a (dead) mad scientist, a fabulous underground bunker, voracious giant praying mantises and gobs of messy violence. As narrated by hapless Polish-Iowan sophomore Austin Szerba, though, the “shit like that” and his love for it all take center stage: his family, including his older brother, whose testicles and one leg are blown off in Afghanistan; his mute, perpetually defecating golden retriever; the dead-end town of Ealing, Iowa; his girlfriend, Shann Collins, whom he desperately wants to have sex with; and most importantly, his gay best friend, Robby Brees, to whom he finds himself as attracted as he is to Shann. His preoccupation with sex is pervasive; the unlikeliest things make Austin horny, and his candor in reporting this is endearing. In a cannily disjointed, Vonnegut-esque narrative, the budding historian weaves his account of the giant-insect apocalypse in and around his personal family history and his own odyssey through the hormonal stew that is adolescence. He doesn’t lie, and he is acutely conscious of the paradox that is history: “You could never get everything in a book. / Good books are always about everything.”

By that measure, then, this is a mighty good book. It is about everything that really matters. Plus voracious giant praying mantises.  (Science fiction. 14 & up)

 


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