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Grasshopper Jungle
Cover of Grasshopper Jungle
Grasshopper Jungle
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In the small town of Ealing, Iowa, Austin and his best friend Robby have accidentally unleashed an unstoppable army. An army of horny, hungry, six-foot-tall praying mantises that only want to do two things.
This is the truth. This is history.
It's the end of the world. And nobody knows anything about it.
You know what I mean.


Funny, intense, complex, and brave, Grasshopper Jungle brilliantly weaves together everything from testicle-dissolving genetically modified corn to the struggles of recession-era, small-town America in this groundbreaking coming-of-age stunner.

"Original, weird, sexy, thought-provoking and guaranteed to stir controversy. One hell of a book." – Michael Grant, New York Times bestselling author of the Gone series
"Andrew Smith is the bravest storyteller I know. Grasshopper Jungle is the most intelligent and gripping book I've read in over a decade. I didn't move for two days until I had it finished. Trust me. Pick it up right now. It's a masterpiece." – A. S. King, Printz Honor-winning author of Ask the Passengers and Please Ignore Vera Dietz
"Grasshopper Jungle is about the end of the world. And everything in between." – Alex London, author of Proxy

"In Grasshopper Jungle, it's as if Andrew Smith is somehow possessed by the ghost of Kurt Vonnegut. This book is nothing short of a brilliant, hilarious thrill-ride that is instantly infectious. But, the most beautiful thing about Grasshopper Jungle has nothing to do with the absurd or out-of-this-world. It is the deft hand by which Smith explores teenage love and sexuality that is truly breathtaking. In writing a history of the end of the world, Smith may have just made history himself." – John Corey Whaley, Printz Award-winning author of Where Things Come Back

In the small town of Ealing, Iowa, Austin and his best friend Robby have accidentally unleashed an unstoppable army. An army of horny, hungry, six-foot-tall praying mantises that only want to do two things.
This is the truth. This is history.
It's the end of the world. And nobody knows anything about it.
You know what I mean.


Funny, intense, complex, and brave, Grasshopper Jungle brilliantly weaves together everything from testicle-dissolving genetically modified corn to the struggles of recession-era, small-town America in this groundbreaking coming-of-age stunner.

"Original, weird, sexy, thought-provoking and guaranteed to stir controversy. One hell of a book." – Michael Grant, New York Times bestselling author of the Gone series
"Andrew Smith is the bravest storyteller I know. Grasshopper Jungle is the most intelligent and gripping book I've read in over a decade. I didn't move for two days until I had it finished. Trust me. Pick it up right now. It's a masterpiece." – A. S. King, Printz Honor-winning author of Ask the Passengers and Please Ignore Vera Dietz
"Grasshopper Jungle is about the end of the world. And everything in between." – Alex London, author of Proxy

"In Grasshopper Jungle, it's as if Andrew Smith is somehow possessed by the ghost of Kurt Vonnegut. This book is nothing short of a brilliant, hilarious thrill-ride that is instantly infectious. But, the most beautiful thing about Grasshopper Jungle has nothing to do with the absurd or out-of-this-world. It is the deft hand by which Smith explores teenage love and sexuality that is truly breathtaking. In writing a history of the end of the world, Smith may have just made history himself." – John Corey Whaley, Printz Award-winning author of Where Things Come Back

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  • From the cover

    ***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.***


    Copyright © 2014 by Andrew Smith



    Part 1:
    Ealing

    I read somewhere that human beings are genetically predisposed to record history.

    We believe it will prevent us from doing stupid things in the future. But even though we dutifully archived elaborate records of everything we've ever done, we also managed to keep on doing dumber and dumber shit.

    This is my history.

    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.

    Just like it's always been.

    KIMBER DRIVE

    Robby Brees and I made the road the Ealing Mall is built on.

    Before we outgrew our devotion to BMX bicycles, the constant back-and-forth ruts we cut through the field we named Grasshopper Jungle became the natural sweep of Kimber Drive, as though the dirt graders and street engineers who paved it couldn't help but follow the tracks Robby and I had laid.

    Robby and I were the gods of concrete rivers, and history does prove to us that wherever boys ride bicycles, paved roadways ribbon along afterward like intestinal tapeworms.

    So the mall went up—built like a row of happy lower teeth— grinned for a while, and then about a year ago some of the shops there began shutting down, blackening out like cavities when people left our town for other, better places.

    BMX riding was for middle-school kids.

    We still had our bikes, and I believe that there were times Robby and I thought about digging them out from the cobwebbed corners of our families' garages. But now that we were in high school—or at least in high school classes, because we'd attended Curtis Crane Lutheran Academy since kindergarten—we rode skateboards, and also managed to sneak away in Robby's old car.

    We were in tenth grade, and Robby could drive, which was very convenient for me and my girlfriend, Shann Collins.

    We could always depend on Robby. And I counted on the hope—the erotic plan I fantasized over—that one night he'd drive us out along the needle-straight roads cutting through the seas of cornfields surrounding Ealing, and Robby wouldn't say anything at all as I climbed on top of Shann and had sex with her right there on the piles of Robby's laundry that always seemed to lie scattered and unwashed in the dirty old Ford Explorer his dad left behind.

    ———

    FIXING FEET

    On The Friday that ended our painfully slow first week after spring break, Robby and I took our boards and skated through the filthy back alley of Grasshopper Jungle.

    Nobody cared about skaters anymore.

    Well, at least nobody cared among the four remaining businesses that managed to stay open in the Ealing Mall after the McKeon plant closed down: The laundromat Robby never quite made it to, The Pancake House, and the liquor and thrift stores owned by Shann's stepdad.

    So we could skate there, and did pretty much whatever we wanted to do.

    Judging from the empty beer cans, the mysterious floral sleeper sofa we were certain was infested with pubic lice, and the pungent smell of piss in the alley, it was clear everyone else in Ealing was similarly okay with the no-limits code of conduct in Grasshopper Jungle, too.

    And that proved to be an unfortunate fact for me and Robby on that Friday.

    We had built ramps from sagging flaps of plywood that we laid across a flight of concrete steps behind a vacant unit that used to...

About the Author-
  • Andrew Smith is the award-winning author of several young adult novels, including the critically acclaimed Winger and The Marbury Lens. He is a native-born Californian who spent most of his formative years traveling the world. His university studies focused on Political Science, Journalism, and Literature. He has published numerous short stories and articles. Grasshopper Jungle is his seventh novel. He lives in Southern California. You can learn more at authorandrewsmith.com and follow him on Twitter: @marburyjack.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from November 4, 2013
    Assuming the role of a historian (a wildly obscene historian), 16-year-old Austin Szerba chronicles the end of the world as it begins in his small Iowa town. Austin is in love with two people—his girlfriend, Shann, and his best friend Robby; neither of them is okay with it but, as Austin frequently repeats, “I was so confused.” This confusion worsens when a series of missteps results in the propagation of six-foot tall, superstrong, mantislike Unstoppable Soldiers that portend a new world order on Earth. Sex is everywhere in this novel (only some of it involving humans), but Smith (Winger) describes it in purposefully clinical and utterly unromantic terms, making connections between the Unstoppable Soldiers—who “wanted only to fuck and eat”—and human beings, whose preoccupations aren’t, perhaps, so different. Filled with gonzo black humor, Smith’s outrageous tale makes serious points about scientific research done in the name of patriotism and profit, the intersections between the personal and the global, the weight of history on the present, and the often out-of-control sexuality of 16-year-old boys. Ages 14–up. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

  • AudioFile Magazine Oh, the complications of being a teenager! Falling in love with your two best friends, one female, one male, then accidentally unleashing a plague that causes the end of the world. Philip Church narrates Smith's novel with blunt tones, presenting a Vonnegut-like tale with straightforward prose. It works perfectly. The outlandishness of people turning into giant, murderous praying mantises is somehow perfectly balanced by the painful honesty of the teenage heart. Church takes the short, declarative sentences and, by simply performing them with a rapid, matter-of-fact delivery, captures the quick wit and sly thoughtfulness of the novel. Although Church has great energy and charm, be warned: The story's narrator swears like a sailor. G.D. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine
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