by Andrew Smith
Irreverent, irrepressible, irrational, and irresistible, Grasshopper Jungle breaks the mold for YA fiction. There are no shiny, pretty vampires or hot werewolves; the protagonist is not a smoldering hunk. The love interest is not a hot, lean, long-legged vixen. The setting is not Gothic--nor exciting, nor metropolitan, nor the least bit "cool." Ealing, Iowa, is probably the most un-cool place on the planet, or so thinks our protagonist Austin Szerba. Austin tells the history of the world according to Austin, and the reader has to trust him because he's the only historian left to tell the tale.
Austin and best friend Robby spend their days chain smoking cigarettes, talking about the town's few people, wasting time before college, and skating (skateboarding). When they go up against a gang of bullies, Robby and Austin lose their boards and have to venture up to the roof to retrieve their shoes. This sets in motion the beginning of the end. Up on the roof, the boys notice a trapdoor into the store below, and being curious-- and teenagers--they decide it would be okay to go inside the store after hours just to "look around." Austin had always wanted to see what was in the boss's office anyway. The boys get an eyeful of that strange and weird office of doom. From a two headed baby to a jar of human hands, Austin's boss Johnny McKeon collects bizarre stuff. The boys look around but leave everything intact. If only every burglar left those jars intact, the plague that takes over would never have been set free.
Soon the town of Ealing faces an invasion of giant man-eating grasshoppers and no one is safe. Austin, Robby and Shann go underground...literally...to stay alive. The trio uncovers the secret of Ealing and its early sci-fi experiments gone wrong. This coming of age story is truly like no other!
Friends Robby and Austin are lovable and laugh out loud funny. When visiting Shann's house, the boys question whether the house has a demonic presence or just smells like people died inside. Robby says, "You should get that kind of air freshener ##@* that you plug into outlets so it masks the scent of death and decay with springtime potpourri."
Smith delivered with Winger, and he continues to capture boyish bad behavior and humorous sarcasm. Austin is a true mess--overflowing with teen angst and ironic wit--he is a character you are not likely to forget...EVER! Andrew Smith may have just written this generation's answer to The Catcher in the Rye, and Austin Szerba will go down in literary circles as the new Holden Caulfield.
The book design is nothing short of genius. The bright neon green cover with even brighter yellow page edges set this book off on any shelf.
Highly, highly recommended grade 9-up. Overflowing with profanity and witty charm, this book is a real hoot! Sexual references and innuendo, mature situations, the end of the world and doom!
FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.
This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)