Book Review: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Here is a direct text message from yours truly to my bookish friend last night: I’m reading this book called Grosshopper Jungle about a 16 y/o [boy] sexually confused between his girlfriend and his best friend in the midst of life size insects destroying the world. LSD much?


I feel like you can’t describe Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith without sounding completely ridiculous which is why I was drawn to the novel in the first place. I have being meaning to pick up this book ever since one of my fellow book clubbers expounded upon its amazingness. When I saw Andrew Smith in the line up for the Decatur Book Festival I decided it was time to take the plunge.


Our main man is Austin Szerba, a young Polish historian in the making who lives in the dying town of Ealing, Iowa. He is in love with his girlfriend Shann and thinks about having sex with her all the time – all.the.time. Austin is also in love with his best friend Robby and needless to say Austin is very confused about his situation. One night a literal series of unfortunate events leads to the beginning of the end of the world. Austin and Robby are skateboarding in the alley behind a rundown strip mall when they are beat up by four guys for being queer. The pair return later that night to retrieve their shoes tossed onto the roof by the assholes. They witness the same bullies stealing a pulsing, glowing orb from the pawn shop where Austin works. The self contained terrarium is accidentally dropped and shatters in the alleyway. The substance within mixes with Robby’s blood on the pavement from the fight earlier and unleashes the genetically engineered giant grasshoppers of death. The situation then snowballs even further out of control.

The downfall of Ealing at the pinchers of giant grasshoppers is interspersed with Austin sharing the history of his family and town and of course the analysis of his feelings for Robby and Shann. We hear about how confused Austin is the entire novel and come to think of it I’m pretty sure he’s still confused at the end of the novel which concludes five years later. I would have liked to have heard even more about the grasshoppers and less about Austin’s inner conflict. By the end of novel, I (and Rob) realize how selfish Austin really is, he is more concerned with his own happiness and sexual fulfillment than either Shann or Rob. It was pretty disappointing actually.

Austin tells his stories in a similar fashion to Jim Dale’s narration of Pushing Daisies – “The facts were these…” However Austin’s detailed histories of his relatives and the townspeople of Ealing are repetitive and by the end of the novel I was skimming the parts that were repeats of histories already shared earlier in the novel. I think this might have been a case of having my expectations set too high. Grasshopper Jungle was certainly an entertaining read but I was looking for a bit more substance and conclusion to both conflicts – Austin’s sexual awakening and the giant ass insects killing everyone!


More Comic Booking!

I might have just made up the phrase comic booking but I like it. After stumbling my way through the comic book store to buy Lumberjanes, I bought Saga Volumes 1-3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples online (never fear there will be plenty of awkward comic book store adventures to come). Let me just say HOLY CRAP THIS IS THE BEST THING I’VE EVER READ.


Consider me completely obsessed. Saga is the epic story of Marko and Alana, two members of opposing alien races which have been at war with each other for centuries upon centuries. They are quite literally star-crossed lovers. Saga is told from the point of view of Hazel, Marko and Alana’s love child. I can’t get enough Saga. The story is fantastic and the artwork takes my breath away. There is nudity, violence, witty banter, even thoughtful commentary of the rippling effects of war. There were moments that made me laugh out loud, cry out in surprise, and nearly cry.


Marko and Alana’s hodgepodge family is rounded out by Hazel’s eternally teenaged babysitter Izabel – a ghost missing her lower half due to a bomb, Marko’s prejudicial parents, and a flying spaceship which is really a tree with a mind of its own. Marko and Alana are on the run from a variety of assassins, my favorite being The Will and his Lying Cat. Additionally, Marko is being pursued by his spurned fiance Gwendolyn who’s pretty badass herself. There is also a race of robot television people who are soldiers for hire.


Now I’m at a crossroads, do I continue with the bound volumes or do I take up single issues?? First world problems for sure.  Up next in adventures in comic booking is Ms. Marvel and Locke and Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez.  I’d love any other suggestions!

Decatur Book Festival 2014

August has been a whole mess of crazy in the reading department. And by whole mess of crazy I mean I actually accomplished a lot. After reading Landline by Rainbow Rowell and taking a dive into comic books with Lumberjanes by Brooke Allen and Noelle Stevenson, I read The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman, Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer, the first 3 volumes of Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples and last but not least Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins. I will do my best to post a review about each of them in the coming days (what in the world am I getting myself into??).

I wanted to talk about the Decatur Book Festival. DBF is one of the largest book festivals in the country which takes place every Labor Day weekend in Decatur, GA. This is the third year I have gone and its gets better and better every year (also hotter and hotter, like hanging out with Hades hot). I pretty much spent all Saturday and Sunday hanging out in Decatur square sweating my ass off but having a wonderfully bookish time.


All day Saturday my butt was parked squarely at the teen stage (you know I love me some YA lit).  Here’s a run down of the panels I attended Saturday:

Just Do It Panel with Terra McVoy, Lauren Myracle and Len Vlahos moderated by Lauren Morrill

Tell Me the Truth Panel with Jennifer Armentrout, Adele Griffin and Jennifer Mathieu moderated by Judy Blundell

Map of My Heart: Love Stories Panel with Adi Alsaid, Isabel Gillies, Stephanie Perkins and Jennifer Smith moderated by Elizabeth Lenhard

Guys and Girls Like Us Panel with Geoff Herbach, Ellen Hopkins, Jandy Nelson and Andrew Smith moderated by Len Vlahos


And Sunday – woah woah attending adult fiction panels:

The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer

The Magician’s Land by Lev GrossmanIMG_3787

DBF is the perfect place to visit authors you already know and love (Stephanie Perkins and Lev Grossman) and to get to know new (at least to you) authors (Adele Griffin and Andrew Smith). In between panel discussions, book signings, and book browsing, you can attempt to beat the blistering heat and enjoy a King of Pops (orange passionfruit for me on Saturday and salted lemonade on Sunday). My book haul for DBF consisted of Authority and Acceptance by Jeff Vandermeer, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, and The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin. If my messenger bag (and my bank account) would have permitted, I would have bought even more books! I am going to be one busy reader this fall.


In addition to these wonderful novels, I also bought this bitchin’ tee shirt from Little Shop of Stories – my all time favorite bookstore 🙂


Definitely look for a future review of the first the volumes of the comic book series Saga – my new obsession.