Grasshopper Jungle is described as a “sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition,” and that fits this bizarre, fascinating book to perfection. The end of the world is nearing thanks to gigantic praying mantises, and while Austin is trying to figure out how the hell he’s supposed to stop them, he’s also wrestling with his feelings for both his girlfriend Shann and for his best friend Robby.
The book is extremely well-written and crafted, and while the narration or content may be jarring to some readers with its frank fixation on male horniness that both serves and sometimes threatens to consume the plot, it definitely kept me interested and I think it’s a book that’s going to spark a lot of conversation. Certainly most of the early reactions have been extremely enthusiastic, and I am always in favor of YA books that explore topics that aren’t talked about as often.
One of the most interesting parts of this book was its depiction of Austin’s ambiguous sexuality. I asked the author if he would tell us why he chose to write the character the way he did, and this is what he had to say.
Sexuality and Sexual identity in Grasshopper Jungle
by Andrew Smith
When I was thinking about the concept of Grasshopper Jungle, I decided that I wanted to address the rarely-addressed letter in the GLBTQ population–the “Qs” out there. I don’t think there’s been much (or anything?) written about adolescents who are questioning their sexuality and struggling to settle into their identities, but I think this is an essential and monumentally important component of male adolescence. So that’s where poor, confused, tormented Austin came from.
I wanted to use Austin’s character to normalize (but not trivialize) something that I think all boys his age go through to some degree. He’s just a regular kid who also happens to be in love with, and attracted to, his two closest friends. Austin is a funny and smart kid, who (like me) has a tendency to over-think things. His story, I think, makes us all feel his awkwardness, confusion, self-doubt, and–most importantly–his love for Robby and Shann.
Follow along the rest of the Grasshopper Jungle tour for reviews and additional giveaways.
Our thanks to Andrew Smith for stopping by the blog, as well as to Penguin Teen for providing the review and giveaway copies. Photos courtesy of Penguin Teen. Grasshopper Jungle will be in stores and online on February 11th, 2014.
Win a copy of Grasshopper Jungle + tee-shirt!
Thanks to our friends at Penguin Teen and Lady Reader’s Stuff Tours, we’re pleased to offer our readers a chance to win a finished hard cover of this book, along with a VERY cool and collectible Unstoppable Corn tee-shirt. (I’ll upload a photo in a bit!) All you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form, and leave a comment below telling us why you’re excited to read Grasshopper Jungle OR what’s the absolute worst way you can imagine the world coming to an end.
Open to US residents aged 18 and up, or 13 and up with parental permission. Please see entry form for complete details. Good luck!
Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.
To make matters worse, Austin’s hormones are totally oblivious; they don’t care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He’s stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it’s up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.
Edited to add: as Andrew says, there aren’t a lot of books featuring the “questioning” portion of the YA readership. Aside from Reese in Malinda Lo’s Adaptation series, can you think of any other examples?