In the very best of ways, Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith is one of the more unusual novels you’ll ever read. Smith has delivered a genuinely unique experience: spikily soulful and inventively propulsive YA sci-fi in a contemporary setting, with an escalating horrific and hilarious R-rated apocalypse; in short, it’s about the end of the world as experienced by Austin, a confused teen in a very, very small town in Iowa.
Everything about this book is twisted in just the right kind of way to feel completely fresh and new: its evocation of the endless feeling of teenage summers, the intense hormonal confusion and heightened emotions, the torture of high school and parents who just don’t get it…. Oh yeah, and the unstoppable horror that is set into motion by a series of mundane, by-chance accidents.
Basically, they unleash a bunch of 9 foot tall armor-plated bugs that just want to eat and f**k.
The extreme day-to-day reality of the setting, as well as the obsessive limitations of the narrator, create a very grounded environment, which makes the sci-fi all the more terrifying and visceral.
Austin is not necessarily the most likeable of narrators, but there’s still something very engaging about his honesty and loyalty. He’s also very funny. He’s a skewed perspective through which to see a bunch of giant horror bugs tearing apart life as we know it, but that’s just what this story needs. Side note: talking of skewed perspectives, the fact that Edgar Wright (Shaun Of The Dead, The World’s End, formerly of Ant-Man…sadface) is directing the movie adaptation is cause for massive geek rejoicing and celebration – his quick-witted, hyper-stylish visual and emotional genius is beyond perfect for this story.
All in all, this is an insane, gripping, unputdownable, novel. It’s an Unstoppable Read.
Rating: five out of five Unstoppable Soldiers