Sexual Identity in Grasshopper Jungle: guest post + giveaway

February 3, 2014 2014, giveaway, guest post, mature themes, sci fi or futuristic, Uncategorized, Wendy 86


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.

~ Wendy

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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!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

9780525426035_large_Grasshopper_JungleSixteen-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.



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¬†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?

Wendy signature teal








86 Responses to “Sexual Identity in Grasshopper Jungle: guest post + giveaway”

  1. Irene

    I’m so excited to read this! I’ve heard a lot of good reviews about it. I think the absolute worse way for the world to end is if aliens come and take over and enslave humans. And then when they’re done torturing everyone to death, they destroy the rest of the Earth and all its inhabitants.

  2. Ariana

    I’m so excited to read this book! It will be nice to see these issues that so many teens deal with brought to life in a thoughtful and humorous way.

  3. Emily

    I’m really excited to read this book. Winger was fantastic, and I can’t wait to see what Grasshopper Jungle brings.

  4. Natasha

    I am excited to read Grasshopper Jungle because it sounds like an amazing read and I have heard great things about it!
    Thanks for the chance to win!

  5. Julian

    This book absolutely blew me away. It was so funny, honest and refreshing.

  6. Nadia

    I’ve seen this cover around GR but didn’t know what it was about! Honestly I’m kind of put off by the insect part, but interested because of your comments on it and the LGBTQ aspect. I’m going to check it out and see what happens.

    And regarding the question at the end of the post, no other YA book comes to mind about “questioning” or queer teens, which is saying something :/

  7. Dana

    Worst way for the world to end? I gotta say, any sort of giant insects (like grasshoppers!) taking over the world would be the worst because of the horrific way they’d maim and eat us (and anything with multiple legs and eyes is super disgusting and creepy!). I’m cringing and getting goosebumps just thinking of the “giant bugs attack” scene in King Kong (2005).

    Other than insects, I think maybe a nuclear/atomic war. I don’t want to go into details, but anyone who’s read about Hiroshima and Nagasaki should understand. Can you imagine that on a scale that was bigger than just two cities?

  8. Layla A.

    Ooh. So I’m interested in reading this because of its LGBTQ content. I like (1) end-of-the-world scenarios and (2) books where characters are thinking through their sexuality. I’m also interested in the comparison to Malinda Lo’s Adaptation, a book which I was whelmed by.
    Layla A. recently posted…Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy, #1)

  9. Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    I’ve seen far too many mixed reviews of this book to be confident picking it up. It doesn’t seem like the type of novel I’d enjoy because of the writing style – from what I’ve heard, at any rate – but I love the message the author hopes to convey and the fact that he tackled a type of persona that isn’t often seen in the genre is commendable. Thanks for sharing, Wendy!
    Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings recently posted…Review: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

  10. Tanja

    I still haven’t read this book but I really like the whole idea of it. I really want to see how that Q part turned out and to meet the characters here. Thank you so much for sharing this Wendy. Great post :)
    Tanja recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday (#81)

  11. Literary Lottie

    Oooh, this has been on my anticipated release list for a while, ever since I researched what LGBTQ books were coming out (har) this year.

  12. Neyra

    I love books that aren’t afraid to push the envelope with their stories. I’m glad there’s a book about the “questioning” part of what most adolescents go to. Seems interesting and hopefully it’s just as fun as it sounds :) Great post Wendy, thanks for sharing!
    Neyra recently posted…Review: Vengeful in Love by Nadia Lee

    • Wendy Darling

      Same here–there are plenty of books about girls who wear pretty ball gowns and fall in love (which is fine, I love those, too), but we sorely need more books that embrace more human experiences.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

    • Wendy Darling

      That would be a pretty scary way for the world to end–who could you trust? This sounds a bit FIFTH WAVE-ish. :) I’m glad you enjoyed GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE!

  13. Catherine Martin

    This sounds like a wonderful read! I love GLBT books where there is a story other than the fact that the main character is struggling with his/her sexuality. Can’t wait to read!

    • Wendy Darling

      TOTALLY agree. I think there’s value in realistic fiction about coming out and such, of course, but I think it’s important and helpful to have characters in books where it’s just part of their identity as well. Just a fact of life, as it should be. And I bet, or I guess I hope, that for some of the more traditionally minded readers, that these types of characters are a little eye-opening.

  14. Stephanie @ Inspiring Insomnia

    I’ve been wanting to read this ever since I saw that fantastic green cover. It’s one of those books that seems like you’d be doing it a disservice by displaying only its spine on a bookshelf. It’s even better-looking than Winger (which I still need to read.)

    I’m curious about an MC who is “questioning.” Of the LGBTQ acronym, that is the one I think I understand the least.

    Now on to the really fun part – the end of the world! If there was an ideal way for the world to end, I think it would have to be something that would unite humans against a common evil – like an alien invasion or a zombie apocalypse. On the other hand, an apocalypse that resulted from an avoidable, stupid act (like a nuclear bombing or some kind of environmental catastrophe)seems meaningless. If I’m going to go, I’d like to do so with a laser blaster in my hands, fighting aliens, or wielding an axe against a zombie horde.
    Stephanie @ Inspiring Insomnia recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday # 40: Books That Will Make You Cry

    • Wendy Darling

      The green is VERY eye-catching, hah. It’s such an intense color that it kind of hurts the eyes if you stare at it for too long, but it’s definitely going to stand out on that YA shelf.

      I think we’ve heard the least about the “Q” section of the population, so I’m glad we’re getting more books that portray that experience.

      And yessssss, end of times! I like how you think, lady. If the world’s gonna end, let’s at least kick some ass and have some fun doing it.

  15. julie@my5monkeys

    I admit that this book has been on my radar for a while , and this book sounds interesting :) I loved learning more about the book too. I am curious about the mantis too :)
    julie@my5monkeys recently posted…Cress Book Review

  16. Rashika

    I’ve seen this book going around but Mel’s review convinced me to give it a shot when it comes out (even though she didn’t enjoy it.. :P The weirdness did me in… I like weird). I don’t think I’ve seen a book that actually addresses the Q in the GBLTQ and I really look forward to seeing how Smith deals with it. I think it’s really important topic. Teenagers are confused creatures and it’s normal to question your sexuality in that stage. In spite of this, there still aren’t many books that do that. Things tend to be very concrete.

    Great Post!! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I saw Mel’s review! It is definitely a very weird book, so if you’re into weird, you should definitely check it out.

      I edited the post to add that the only YA book I can think of where there is a “Q” is Malinda Lo’s Adaptation series. I’d love to hear if people know of more, though, and we do need more representation for sure.

    • Wendy Darling

      Death might be sweet mercy if the mantises take over the world! Honestly, I’d be screeching like a crazy person and running for the hills.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  17. Lucy

    What a great guest post! I’ve been eagerly anticipating this book for months- so excited it’s coming out soon.

    There aren’t enough books in the “Q” category so hopefully we’ll see more, and I’m glad to hear that’s a plot point in Jungle. Plus, obviously we don’t see praying mantis’ causing world destruction enough :) This book does sound bizarre and I can’t wait to read it!
    Lucy recently posted…Top 10 Books That Make You Feel

    • Wendy Darling

      I am really glad we are seeing more sex-positive YA books published recently. (Is it just me, or do we talk about that a lot here at TMG? :P ) And yes, it’s especially important that we’re seeing more books for the Q part of the readership. It’s also helpful, I think, to have books that normalize sexual identity in terms of it simply being part of the character, rather than always being a the driving force of the story.

      Definitely interested in hearing what you think of this one, Lucy. I predict that the reactions to this one are going to be pretty polarizing, hah.

    • Wendy Darling

      Yeah, it’s not at all common in any age category of fiction to have characters questioning their sexuality; I feel like we see it the most in adult erotica, which is all well and fine, but it’s strange that it’s not addressed in many other places. Statistics-wise, I bet there are more people who are fluid in their sexuality than we’d suspect.

  18. Rachel

    I do love end of the world type scenarios, and six-foot tall praying mantises seem to scream end of the world! I’m terrified of them in their one inch state! Eeeek! Austin’s confusion in regards to his sexuality is another huge issue, so I guess this guy can’t really catch a break. I’ve never heard of this story, but it sounds very different and intriguing. Great post, Wendy and Andrew! :)
    Rachel recently posted…Review: How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper

    • Wendy Darling

      If there are six-foot mantises on the loose, then I think it’s safe to say all hell has broken loose, hah. I was a tomboy as a kid so I thought they were fascinating then, but I am a little creeped out by them now. ALSO, for the longest time I thought it was spelled “preying” mantis, because you know, they kill stuff. It made more sense to me than “it looks like they’re praying.” I’m rolling my eyes at whoever came up with that.

  19. Darith L.

    Yes, I’m excited! I heard it’s the right kind of laugh-out-loud inappropriateness! :D

  20. Pili

    Hmmm, just by the title itself I wasn’t all that sure about this book, but after reading the summary and what the author had to say about his main character, I think it sounds like a great book, and a very needed one. YA and the rest of literature needs more variety to represent the variety of humankind. I will be surely adding this one to the TBR list!
    Pili recently posted…Rockstar Book Tours: Review of Such Sweet Sorrow by Jenny Trout!!

    • Wendy Darling

      I think it’s a very interesting book, and one a lot of readers are gonna love. I would urge people to sample the opening chapters when they’re available online to see if you like the writing style–the narrative and structure are a little offbeat, which may or may not work for you.

  21. Allie Schellong

    The book looks so good! Can’t wait to get ahold of a copy.

    • Wendy Darling

      Definitely very, very, very, very different, hah. I’m so glad to hear you’ve pre-ordered it! Let me know what you think when you’re done.

    • Wendy Darling

      I bet there are more Qs than any of us would ever expect. Our society is very heavily hetero-centered, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some of that just tends to get squashed out to some degree.

    • Wendy Darling

      I still haven’t read WINGER yet, but I have heard such good things about it! And yeah, bugs destroying the world was what drew me to this, too. You can’t help but laugh at the concept.

  22. Cassie Gutman

    I’ve heard so much about this book, and it seems really interesting! I love reading dystopian books, but I can’t even imagine what I’d do if I had to live in a nightmarish situation that is one of them!
    Cassie Gutman recently posted…The Naturals

    • Wendy Darling

      This is post-apocalyptic rather than dystopian, Cassie, but it is a nightmarish situation for sure! Bugs are mostly just gross, no matter what their size. Except for lady bugs, I love lady bugs. <3 I could handle a giant lady bug. She would probably just make us tea.

  23. Cam

    I’d love to read the book to see how exactly Andrew Smith handles the topic of Q’s and gender in general for a younger audience. I can’t say I’ve read a lot of books that have taken on the topic of gender for teenagers, so I really am looking forward to this book!

    • Wendy Darling

      It’s a very present part of the book, Cam, not something that’s just added and then forgotten. I’m very curious to see how this is going to be received–I hope you have a good experience with it!

    • Wendy Darling

      Ah, you’re ahead of me because I keep meaning to read WINGER and haven’t gotten around to it yet! I hope you get to this one soon.

  24. Heather@The Flyleaf Review

    Hmmm. Left a rather long comment but I don’t think it’s showing up. Delete this one if it does! Anyway–loved what the author said about there not being many books out there that bring up the topic of struggling with your sexuality–I agree–and I particularly liked that about Grasshopper Jungle. Even if the extreme horniness of Austin is a bit much in the book:)
    Heather@The Flyleaf Review recently posted…Book Review: Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepard

  25. Nicole Myers

    I’m so excited about this book. I became a fan of Andrew Smith as I read Winger. I love how his characters discuss important topics that are typically considered taboo.

    • Wendy Darling

      I really admire authors who aren’t afraid to tackle tough subjects and themes. And I’m grateful that there are publishers who take a chance on them.

  26. Heather@The Flylea Revie

    I finished this last week and am still trying to formulate my thoughts to write a review–it’s definitely one of the more unusual books I have read and kept me guessing the whole way through. When I encountered the “frank fixation on male horniness” as you so aptly describe it, I was both fascinated and overwhelmed at the same time because yes, you’re correct, it really does almost threaten to overtake the entire book. But I just kept thinking “is this really what most 15 year old boys think about in terms of sex?” Because, wow. You always hear that teenage boys are consumed with sex and it controls about 90% of their thoughts and it is illustrated perfectly in Smith’s book. Also I have two boys, one approaching his teen years RAPIDLY and yes, this does freak me out even more:)

    But I enjoyed Smith’s decision to show how Austin really struggled with his sexuality, because I think he’s right, there really isn’t a lot of YA out there that broaches that topic, at least that I know of. I think the character of Robby is my favorite in the book, by the way.

    Great interview Andrew and Wendy:)
    Heather@The Flylea Revie recently posted…Book Review: Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepard

    • Wendy Darling

      Okay, let’s get to it, Heather. Re: the sexual thoughts–I felt very similarly about this book as I did SEPTEMBER GIRLS (which I haven’t finished yet), in that I believe it is extremely realistic that real teenage boys are thinking about sex all the time. All the time. I don’t discount the veracity of that at all, and to a certain degree I appreciate the bluntness of the male perspective.

      But here’s the thing. For me, it the becomes a question of how much do I actually enjoy reading about all this? Especially to this extent? Because it’s also realistic that he probably isn’t all that great at talking to people, that maybe his cell phone calls get dropped sometimes, and that maybe his dog smells because he’s old. Do the constant sexual thoughts being there add significantly to the subject or subtext or enjoyment of the story? The tolerance level and pleasure are different for every person, and this is one of those books that is so bold about its style and content that I’m positive that it’s going to cause lots of extreme reactions, from love to hate to…confusion, hah. (And in all fairness, sex does play a part in advancing the story to some extent.)

      Like you, I think there are a lot of things to appreciate here, however, and I think it’s a book worth the trouble of seeking out to find out whether you like it or not.

  27. Mary @ BookSwarm

    Oh, poor Austin! Like life isn’t hard enough as a teen but throw in the “Q” and that just adds to the stress of it all. I have the feeling I’ll want to hug him and tell him everything’s going to be alright, that it gets better and he’ll figure out what’s best for him before the story’s done.
    Mary @ BookSwarm recently posted…Mini Swarm Reviews: The Contemporary Life

    • Wendy Darling

      Poor Austin, he just doesn’t seem to be able to catch a break. But Mary, your hugs might confuse him even more, what if he is attracted to you, too?!