Sunday, February 16, 2014

Grasshopper Jungle

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Disclaimer one: This book was released on February 11, 2014 but I managed to read the advanced reader's copy so there will inevitably be some minor differences between the version I read and the published version.

Disclaimer two(warning of sorts): This book talks a lot about sex, being horny, sexualizing anything that is alive, and some exploration of feelings towards different genders. It's quite vulgar.

An amazon summary so I can just get to the good stuff, "In the small town of Ealing, Iowa, 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 the truth. This is history.It’s the end of the world. And nobody knows anything about it.You know what I mean.

Funny, intense, complex, and brave, Grasshopper Jungle brilliantly weaves together everything from testicle-dissolving genetically modified corn to the struggles of recession-era, small-town America in this groundbreaking coming-of-age stunner." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

First, I was supremely choked by the overwhelming symbolism that was running rampantly loose amongst these pages. It was obnoxious, hard to distill the actual story from the symbolic story, and a bit of a headache inducer.

Secondly, there was a lot of talk about sexuality, constantly being horny, testicles, and anything being alive is sexualized in some way. There is a point where I can understand how it's confusing to understand sexuality, how it needs to be talked about/thought about/puzzled through on some level, but it was very annoying to read about it seemingly every other paragraph on top of all the symbolism that was cluttering the book.

Third, I think this book tried to do way too much simultaneously. It was not only about Austin, Robby, and Shannon (Shann) but also about the people of the town, a commentary on humanity, some crazy sci-fi stuff with the praying mantises, sexuality, levels of relationships, looking at history to understand the origin of where people are, as well as recounting present day history. It was a lot to cram into one book.

Fourth, the style of storytelling was jumbled and all over the place which left me stumbling to decipher what mattered, what symbolism was present and trying to allude to what concept, while also trying to filter out some of the repetitive stuff that tied back to history. Honestly, sometimes I found it hard not to skip over an entire paragraph if it seemed to be in the midst of a 'You know what I mean' moment (which I found annoying as all get out).


Let's talk about some premise.

Austin is best friends with Robby and boyfriend to Shannon (Shann); the three of them are very good friends. Austin and Robby frequently hang out in an alleyway behind a strip mall which they dubbed the 'Grasshopper Jungle'. They get beat up by four boys (the four boys drew blood from them) who toss their belongings on the roof and they go back to retrieve them in the night. Robby and Austin take Shann with them and park out in the grasshopper jungle. They climb up on the roof while Shann sleeps in the car and find a bunch of weird things up there. They pile them all near where they climbed up with the intention of taking them with them. The roof is on top of a thrift store of sorts where Austin works and they access the shop from the roof and make their way through. Austin has always been curious about what the shop owner (Shann's step dad) keeps in his office, so after a little bumping through the dark, they get into the office where they find a bunch of weird stuff.

Weird stuff as in parts of people in jars, something that glows blue when the lights are off, etc. WEIRD STUFF. They hear noises though so they turn the lights off and hide under the office table. It turns out the four boys who beat them up earlier broke into the store to steal the alcohol and check out the office; they also steal the weird stuff that glows blue. The four boys leave and Austin with Robby leave through the way they came in, gather their stuff and leave. Somewhere in there Austin and Robby kiss (oh yeah, Robby is gay).

There was also a lot of other story mixed in like the beginning history of how Austin wound up in Iowa while that previous history seemed to be purposely written to illustrate the people behind the basic facts and how they're not always good people. Austin seems to compulsively write his history of each day down as some sort of obligation.

Also, Austin and Robby smoke a lot. Shann does not though.

There's also a tangled history of the town that is woven throughout the story and so many little things that it's hard to keep it all straight.

Something I found odd was that Austin's family owned a dog that could not bark as she had a tumor in her neck that was removed and lost the ability or something. Yet Austin loved that dog and it seemed to deny it's normal functions as a dog besides acting like a source of comfort. This is still an aspect that puzzles me. It's probably symbolic of something else.

As the amazon summary alluded, there is an army of praying mantises that come into play. That whole aspect was interesting of the book, but I wish it had been more of a primary focus than Austin/Robby/the four boys who beat them up accidentally created them and the havoc the army unleashed. Did I mention there's a lot of symbolism?


I could spend days talking about this book because of how 'intricate' it was.

But I won't.

It was a rather uncomfortable/annoying read with how pivotal male characters seemed to be obsessed with sex/sperm (and they are the focus of the book) so perhaps this was just not the book for me.

Happy reading!

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