cover image Grasshopper Jungle

Grasshopper Jungle

Andrew Smith. Dutton, $18.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-525-42603-5

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. (Feb.)