Not one to often pick up a young adult novel, I was intrigued by this month’s book club choice. Much like the protagonists, I had to fiercely struggle my way through Grasshopper Jungle, but I’m glad that I did.
This book is, well, weird. The narrative choices are interesting and for the first half of the read for me, annoying and distracting. Our narrator is sixteen-year-old Austin and he prides himself on being a historian, with volumes written about the nothingness that happens in Ealing, Iowa and his family history.
He and his best friend Robby spend their time skateboarding, smoking, and unsuccessfully avoided getting beat up by kids from the public high school. It is an uneventful existence. Until the giant praying mantis killing machines make their appearance.
I totally get what Andrew Smith was trying to do and I think he did a good job with the voice of Austin: this novel reads like it was written by a sixteen year old who prides himself on being a historian. Therein lies the problem for me, because following along with a sixteen year old who is an amateur writer and confused about his place on the world is really, really annoying. The repetition, and really, the repeated repetition of the same information, and even the same wording time and again is grating.
It took me a while to get the rhythm of this book, but I stuck with it and ultimately enjoyed the story thoroughly. I don’t know much about the YA genre so I don’t know if it’s better or worse than other offerings, but I think I would have enjoyed it more at a younger age.