Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Book Report: Grasshopper Jungle

Grasshopper Jungle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like, wow.

"All good books are about everything, abbreviated" (Grasshopper Jungle, p.332).

Austin Szreba has a healthy preoccupation with the intersection of histories. He believes that the roads of coincidence cross back and forth across time, right in front of us. As a self-made historian, he writes these observations down. Grasshopper Jungle is Austin's recording of the end of the world. While the world is ending, our narrator is also authentically struggling to separate hormones from love and friendship, and human stupidity from beauty. It happens like this...

A gang of total oafs beat the crap out of Austin and his best friend, Robby, in the nowhere town of Ealing, Iowa, in an alleyway affectionately referred to as the "Grasshopper Jungle". Later that night, the same gang of total oafs breaks into the office of Austin's boss, an office that Austin and Robby have also just broken into. Inside they have discovered the most messed up treasure trove of Cold War era stuffs ever seen. While Austin and Robby are smart enough to stand in fear and awe of the glowing blue orb of "Contained MI Plague Strain 412E", the total oafs decide it would be fun to take it for a stroll...

It was not a good idea. You know what I mean.

The joy of the rest of this book is in letting Austin tie all the ends together while hell breaks loose in Ealing. In his own meandering, often gross, and truly funny way, Austin discovers what MI Plague Strain 412E is, what it does (bad stuff), and where it came from (totally bizarre). While he's figuring this all out, he has the unfortunate fate of being a teenage boy made horny by nearly everything, which is inconvenient when the world is ending. Incessant male teenage arousal can also be inconvenient when you're trying to figure out your feelings for your girlfriend and possibly your best friend, too. Female characters, like Shann, seem a big thinly drawn, but that may be appropriate considering the narrator, who happens to be preoccupied by unstoppable, giant mantises bent on devouring the entire human race. And other stuff.

This book is anticlimactic (in a good way!), hilarious, and somber all at once. It is certainly the most unique end-of-the-world fiction I have read in maybe ever. -Kelley, (Your) Teen Services Librarian

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