When friends who are not readers recommend books to me, I pay attention. Grasshopper Jungle is the second book a self-proclaimed non-reader friend suggested to me (the first was Ready Player One) and I am so glad he told me to read it. I’d read Andrew Smith’s Winger, and that book just won’t stay on my shelf–boys and girls devour that and ask for more. Silly me, why didn’t I realize Andrew Smith had written more than one book?
Grasshopper Jungle tells the tale of two best friends–Austin and Robby–who seem like fairly typical high school boys in Iowa. One turns out to be a God to 6-foot-tall praying-mantis-type creatures and the other turns out to be the one who will populate the earth after humanity is wiped out. I don’t want to talk too much about the plot because I don’t want to give it away. Let’s just say Austin and Robby witness an accident that could lead to the destruction of their town, and they are the only ones who know how to save the rest of humanity.
I know, the premise sounds crazy. Mostly this book is about two best friends. I love the relationships in Andrew Smith’s books. The loyalty and love of the friendships always give me warm fuzzies. I also love that Austin’s character learns to dance from Robby, gets in trouble for reading The Chocolate War, and finds himself confused about his sexuality. Not enough books exist with characters like Austin. I want to require this as reading for all of my students to explain to them how sexuality is a spectrum and if you like boys and girls, that’s just fine. This book isn’t about that–it is just about a kid who loves his girlfriend Shann and his best friend Robby–but it does allow us to peek into Austin’s mind as he contemplates his family history, the history of the town he lives in, and his relationships with people.
Some of my favorite passages from the book include:
“Teenage boys watch you, even when they pretend they don’t give a shit about your life.”
It’s difficult to avoid truth when you’re undressed.”
“History shows than an examination of the personal collection of titles in any man’s library will provide something of a glimpse into his soul.”
“We are all on the same road, all the time.”