Book Review: Grasshopper Jungle

Andrew Smith's Grasshopper Jungle is a history of the end of the world as told by a Polish teenager living in small-town Iowa. Austin Szerba lives in Ealing, Iowa, which isn't exactly the most exciting place in the world. He's a bit confused. He loves his girlfriend Shann, but he also has inexplicable feelings for Robby, his best friend since elementary school.

Oh, and he’s slightly responsible for the exposure of a plague that turns people into six foot tall man-eating praying mantises.

It all begins when Austin and Robby get beaten up by Grant Wallace for looking like queer candy canes. They look like queer candy canes because of the red and white striped ties from their Lutheran school uniforms. Grant also steals their shoes and tosses them on the roof of the local From Attic to Seller Consignment Store.

Fortunately, Austin works for the owner of the store, who also happens to be his girlfriend’s stepfather. One event leads to another, and somehow a glass globe containing the MI Plague Strain 412E stored in the owner’s office gets smashed.

If you’re not a fan of foul language, you may not appreciate this history. If you find depictions of teenage smoking, drinking and sex distasteful, you probably shouldn't pick this one up. But if you – like me – are fascinated by creative apocalyptic scenarios, drawn in with realistic characters, and understand that sometimes teenage boys make bad decisions, you should give it a try.