Penguin Group USA (Dutton Books)
Available February 2014
You just never know what you’re going to get with Andrew Smith’s books (Winger) , and Grasshopper Jungle is no exception. This novel is pure GMO-run-amok fun. Combining it with teenage boy humor is genius, and I laughed myself silly while reading it. It is FUN, and, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m always looking for something that might appeal to a teenage boy, especially reluctant readers. Teenage boys crack me up, because they are so out there, open, honest, and unapologetic. There are some serious issues in this novel too (besides the bugs): sexual orientation, poverty, missing family members, bullying, prejudice, but Grasshopper Jungle is certainly never preachy.
The takeaway lesson here is to never mix grasshopper semen with corn pollen and human blood, because what you get is “an army of horny, hungry, six-foot tall praying mantises that only want to do two things”, namely, eat people and fornicate. (I do have a slight quibble here: is it praying mantises or grasshoppers? Praying mantises are predatory carnivores and would actually make more sense than grasshoppers, which are herbivores and eat only plants!)
When the local bullies go after high-schoolers Austin Szerba and Robby Brees, they inadvertently set in motion a series of events and mishaps that lead to human annihilation. Robby’s bloody nose dripping onto the pavement would normally just be gross and that would be the end of it, but the bullies then break into a secondhand store that just happens to have secret industrial biohazardous experiments encased in glass globes. Since glass globes containing disgusting bug parts are irresistible to teenage boys, they steal one, and OF COURSE drop it right where Robby has bled. It’s pretty much all downhill from there, but at least the bullies get eaten. Unfortunately, so does everyone else, but in the end, Austin, Robby, and Austin’s girlfriend survive. And, as Andrew Smith would say, “And that was our day. You know what I mean.”