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Grasshopper Jungle

A History

Smith, Andrew, 1959-

(Book - 2014)
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Grasshopper Jungle
"Austin Szerba narrates the end of humanity as he and his best friend Robby accidentally unleash an army of giant, unstoppable bugs and uncover the secrets of a decades-old experiment gone terribly wrong"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York, New York :, Dutton Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA),, 2014
ISBN: 0525426035 (hardback)
9780525426035 (hardback)
Branch Call Number: Y SMITH
Characteristics: 388 pages ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

Austin Szerba narrates the end of humanity as he and his best friend Robby accidentally unleash an army of giant, unstoppable bugs and uncover the secrets of a decades-old experiment gone terribly wrong.

Crazy and amazing book about growing up in Ealing, Iowa. Austin Szerba interweaves family history, science experimentation and the end of the world seamlessly. Did I mention giant six-foot-tall praying mantises that have only two things on their mind?

From the critics

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Nov 14, 2014
  • Chapel_Hill_StephenA rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This is one of my favorite books from 2014! Strange and beautiful, this book is filled with delightfully weird and supremely gory action, memorable characters, and one of the most compelling love triangles in recent memory.

Oct 22, 2014
  • gh0stie rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

A short, brief description; A teenager is confused with his sexuality, there are giant six foot praying mantises, and the end of the world is caused by unstoppable corn.
Grasshopper Jungle is definitely one of my favorite books. The writing style is something like a thought process- Going back and forth, describing everything that is going on in that moment with a sarcastic and genuine tone. Austin is a confused Polish boy in love with his best friends, Robby is a gay lutheran and god of giant bugs, and Shann is just as confused as Austin is. You can also flip to literally any page and find a good quote, which is an important trait for any fantastic book.

Oct 20, 2014
  • CraigGraziano rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Austin is brilliantly funny in his matter-of-fact take on the end of the world, but it is not all wisecracks and violence. Even amidst the sarcasm, we find genuine moments of emotion for these teens. They struggle for not only survival, but understanding who they really are.

Read more at: http://www.librarypoint.org/grasshopper_jungle_smith

Sep 25, 2014
  • joelbutler rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A horny teen historian chronicles the end of the world by giant bug soldiers. A funny stream of consciousness history that sometimes repeats itself too often. The teens also come off as a bit uncaring about all the deaths happening around them.

NYPL Staff Pick
Austin Szerba is obsessed with writing down his history but in his small Iowa town there isn't much to write about except his complicated love life with his gay best friend Robby and his girlfriend Shann. Life gets more interesting when giant praying mantis's show up and start eating the populace.
- Anne Rouyer

Jun 06, 2014
  • LibraryK8 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This novel probably the BEST written books I have ever read. It is original, funny, engaging and disturbing. I encourage you to loose yourself in it.

May 30, 2014
  • katrinka28 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

This book was so weird it bordered on wonderful. That's a thing right? You know like a pint of some odd ice cream flavor that you try just one spoonful of but keep going back to just to make sure you still don't quite like it and then you've managed to eat the entire pint? That's not just me...right? Right?!
So back to books and not weird ice cream flavors, Grasshopper Jungle reminded me a lot of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (but with 6 foot tall man-eating bugs, you know cause that makes any book infinitely better). It is the story of a young Polish boy, Austin Szcerba and his attempts to test fate by living a "normal" life in the tiny Iowa town of Ealing, Iowa. This is not going to happen for poor, confused Austin. He is definitely pre-destined for awesomer, weirder things. There are crazy giant bugs (but not til later). There is a quasi-love-triangle (but not til later). What there is a lot of is a boy, trying to figure out who he is, how he effects the world around him and how his history effects him, always. The history sections were randomly interspersed throughout the tale but they were wonderfully written and terribly interesting (that may just be the history teacher in me talking...you be your own judge).

I really feel like I could put this on the contemporary/realistic fiction shelf in my classroom. It is so realistic to the hormone-fueled, confused, lost teenage boy. Oh, except for those 6 ft tall man-eating bugs...at least I hope that parts not real!

Final recommendation: if you like history, contemporary fiction, teenagers, small-town drama, cursing, alien invasions.

P.S. I totally want my own Eden, to run around, wear jumpsuits, bounce on beds and listen to the Stones (again minus the bug-pocalypse above).

May 23, 2014
  • JCLDennisR rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

What a fun, crazy book!

Jul 05, 2013
  • JCLChrisK rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

So just what is Grasshopper Jungle? That's a bit hard to explain. From the prologue:
"There are things in here: Babies with two heads, insects as big as refrigerators, God, the devil, limbless warriors, rocket ships, sex, diving bells, theft, wars, monsters, internal combustion engines, love cigarettes, joy, bomb shelters, pizza, and cruelty."
That is not a complete list.
Each time I finished a chapter in Grasshopper Jungle I immediately went back and reread the chapter title. Then I would smile in appreciation and satisfaction. The chapter titles, for the most part, were a few words or a phrase from the chapter to come. They didn't carry much meaning when first encountered. But from the perspective at the end of the chapter in hindsight, each title was a perfect--and often amusing--encapsulation or representation of the chapter that followed. Part of the experience was going back and closing the circle of perspective to fully appreciate the meaning.
That, in many ways, is the experience of reading Grasshopper Jungle. Think of a snowball rolling down a hillside. It starts as a perfectly nice little sphere, but as it descends, with each rotation, it pulls more snow into itself and gathers more momentum, until, when it finally reaches its destination at the bottom it is massive with layers of accumulated snow and power.
Austin, the narrator and protagonist of Grasshopper Jungle, is a compulsive chronicler. He is obsessed with history, and each night he records his personal history in journals. In Austin's view, most histories are spotty and incomplete, and his goal is to always be as inclusive as possible, so he records everything. Grasshopper Jungle is Austin's history of the end of the world, which happens to be a web of connections that all crisscross through him.
His narration starts as a perfectly nice little snowball composed of introductions to a few characters, ideas, and themes that are at first vague to readers, just like the chapter titles. As we read through his story we soon come back around to those characters, ideas, and themes again, and this time they are a little more familiar. They carry more weight and meaning. As the story grows, more elements are introduced and the complexity grows, and the snowball keeps rolling and Austin keeps circling back to the elements with each rotation. The connections accumulate and the significance and weight of every element expands with each passing. Words, phrases, jokes, places, people, actions, ideas come back over and over; instead of getting old or repetitive, they simple grow more important, meaningful, humorous, insightful, poignant, and relevant.
I'll never think of the words "kayak," "dynamo," "unstoppable," and "history" the same way again. Or about presidents and bathrooms. Or presidents' balls.
There are too many elements in Grasshopper Jungle for it to hold together as a cohesive whole, but it works beautifully. In many ways, on many levels.
There is too much contained within the pages of Grasshopper Jungle to explain it to those who haven't been rolled into the snowball and seen the elements over and over from the accumulated perspective of looking back on history.
It is the story of a struggling, confused teenage boy from the middle of Iowa. It is a story of humanity. It is a story of the end of the world.
"Good books are always about everything," writes Austin.


Add a Quote

Oct 22, 2014
  • gh0stie rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

"I was going to do something I'd never done, and do things I could not understand and never believed existed.

This is history, and this is also the truth."

Oct 22, 2014
  • gh0stie rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

". . .Heinreich Fuchs researched in Splugen.

There were a lot of Fuchs in Splugen.

Splugen was full of dumb Fuchs."

"Good books are about everything"


Add a Summary

coming of age story with post apocalyptic theme

Jun 06, 2014
  • LibraryK8 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Behold the history of the end of the world - by Austin Szerba. The end of the world does not start with a bang or a bomb, or an ultimatum from outer space. It begins (and ends) in Ealing, Iowa, in Grasshopper Jungle, the parking lot behind the strip mall containing a pizza place, the liqueur store and the second-hand store. It begins when Austin and his best friend Robby (who is is pretty sure he is in love with) are bullied by the local small-town thugs who will never amount to anything (because they are not bright enough too and because they will shortly die). The fate of the world is sealed when said thugs break into the second-hand store to steal a glowing glass ball. The world is doomed when they break it open and unleash a plague of carnivorous giant insects on the world. Austin records everything (that is not an overstatement) that happens.


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Oct 20, 2014
  • CraigGraziano rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

CraigGraziano thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


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