Rated Reads

Grasshopper Jungle

by Andrew Smith

Rated: High

Austin is a 16-year-old, sex-obsessed boy living in Nowhere, Iowa. He is confused and lonely (even though he has a best friend and a girlfriend) and angsty and more than a little self-absorbed. You would think this is any run-of-the-mill YA angsty novel. However, Andrew Smith sticks our modern-day Holden Caulfield in a Stephen King-esque setting: a strain of mutant bacteria gets out that mutates people into 6-foot-tall praying-mantis super-soldiers whose sole purpose in life is to eat everything, including each other, and to procreate.

With all the advance buzz it received, I think I expected something mind-blowingly amazing. But in reality all it is is the story of a sex-obsessed, selfish, confused 16-year-old boy. And as a mother of daughters, I can only live in the mind of that kind of character for a limited amount of time. So there’s that strike against it.

But other elements bothered me as well. Austin retells his personal and family history in a frustratingly circular way. He constantly repeats people’s full names (yes, I know Shann’s name is Shann Collins and her stepfather is Johnny McKeon; how many times do I need to be told?). The pace is generally uneven; it’d be interesting for a while and then Smith would go off on a tangent about metal urinals that really didn’t fit with everything else.

To be fair, there are some good elements: actual sentences that made me laugh aloud; or the fact that Austin’s (and his gay best friend Robby’s, for that matter) sexuality was just a thing, and not an “issue”; or just the fact of 6-foot-tall unstoppable praying mantises.

But it wasn’t enough for me to like this one.

Rated: High, for language (including many f-bombs), teenage smoking and drinking, pot use by adults, and clinical sex by 6-foot-tall praying mantises (and teenagers).

— Reviewed by Melissa Fox

Melissa Madsen Fox's blogging career began in 2004 when she started Book Nut. Reading, reviewing and book blogging have taken over what's left of her life after being a stay-at-home mom to four rambunctious daughters and wife to a slightly- absent-minded professor of political science.

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  • Grasshopper Jungle
  • by Andrew Smith
  • Rated: High
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: