FICTION

Grasshopper Jungle

464p. ebook available. Dutton. Feb. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780525426035; pap. ISBN 9781405273411.
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RedReviewStarGr 10 Up—It used to be that the only interesting events to occur in crumbling Ealing, Iowa happened between the pages of 16-year-old Austin Szerba's "history" journals. Austin's journals are elaborate and uncensored records about sex; his love for his girlfriend, Shann; his growing attraction for his best friend, Robby; his unique Polish ancestors; even Ealing's decrepit mini-mall where he and Robby hang out. Shann tells Austin, "I love how, whenever you tell a story, you go backwards and forwards and tell me everything else that could possibly be happening in every direction, like an explosion." And that's exactly how Austin narrates the end of the world when a twist of fate sparks the birth of mutant, people-eating praying mantises. Austin not only records the hilarious and bizarre tale of giant, copulating bugs but his own sexual confusion and his fear about hurting the people he loves. Award-winning author Smith has cleverly used a B movie science fiction plot to explore the intricacies of teenage sexuality, love, and friendship. Austin's desires might garner buzz and controversy among adults but not among the teenage boys who can identify with his internal struggles. This novel is proof that when an author creates solely for himself-as Smith notes in the acknowledgments section-the result is an original, honest, and extraordinary work that speaks directly to teens as it pushes the boundaries of young adult literature.—Kimberly Garnick Giarratano, Rockaway Township Public Library, NJ
Unfortunate coincidences involving sixteen-year-old Austin and his best friend Robby lead to the unleashing of gigantic, ravenous praying mantises related to a diabolical scientist's decades-old experiments. Austin's love for and attraction to both his girlfriend and to Robby is the powerful emotional backbone of this intricate, grimly comedic apocalypse story, in which Smith proves himself a daring and original wordsmith.

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