Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

It all starts with a bullying and a beating, and then things continue downhill until giant bugs ravage an Iowa town. But mostly, this is a book about love, friendship, small towns, and Cold War paranoia.

As horny, sexually confused teen Austin Czerba keeps a record of the end of the world, his version of history is muddled up with his family genealogy, the story of a small town's industry, and an intense love triangle between Austin, his girlfriend, and his best friend Robby. It's a bawdy, messy, hilarious book: there's a lot of talk about sex, and Austin is haunted by the word "experiment." But the charged emotions of the love triangle are offset by the need to absurdly save the world from 6-foot man-eating mantises.

I couldn't put this book down. It's unique, in a sci-fi genre where it's hard to break new ground. Smith revels a bit in 1950s pop-culture nostalgia, then knocks it right out of the park. I'll admit I was slightly disappointed with the ending, but only because it's not what I wanted to see happen - no fault of the story or author. I won't tell you why, though. Because you should read this book. It's excellent.

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