Grasshopper Jungle

 
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Welcome to Ealing, Iowa...land of cornfields, one gay bar, a secondhand store with a back room filled with unusual creatures in jars worthy of Ripley's Believe It Or Not and three friends, Austin, Robbie and Shann who are about to come face to face with the end of the world. 

Austin and Robbie are best friends sharing packs of cigarettes, getting beaten up by high school thugs, and giving each other just the right amount of space.  Both guys are figuring out their sexuality with Austin constantly brought to a state of horniness by random routine things and situations.  The lovely Shann is Austin's girl and target of his horny thoughts and plans.

As the three are navigating their lives, discovering odd things in the walls of Shann's older home and experimenting with their sexuality, one thing leads to another and all three find themselves up against an incredibly dangerous and inexplicable danger.

So there's the basic plot line but along the way the author offers the context for each life with connections to other townspeople and their stories and their family lines of generations past.  There is a richness that creates depths for the characters at the same time it strips a few layers of veneer off the niceties of the social connections.  The entire town is stripped bare and revealed in a glaring light.  The lives of the teens are viewed under the same intense microscope.  

This is a gritty, brilliantly written, multi-layered coming of age story with a huge science fiction twist.  It doesn't feel all that off .. the giant bugs suddenly taking over the world that is... what with all the other bizarre, off the script lives already at work in this town. 

It comes down to Austin, Robbie and Shann.  Will they figure themselves out and become comfortable with who they are individually and as friends?  Can they put all the connections together quickly enough and completely enough to understand what they are up against?  Can they beat the odds?

Ages 14 and up  (Violence, profanity, sex)    388 pages   978-0525426035

Recommended by:  Barb

*****

Here's what the author says:

So, with that, Grasshopper Jungle is about genetically modified corn, paleolithic cave paintings, praying mantises the size of grizzly bears, medieval Catholic saints, the Great Depression, war, sex, pizza, cigarettes, American society, Polish immigration, sexual confusion, book banning, love, volcanoes, Iowa, serial murderers, inflatable whales, crystal meth, the Rolling Stones, gay bars, Daniel Boone, lemurs, Gunsmoke, bowling, prescription drugs, and three friends who are the only people in the universe who know it is the end of the world -- and it all started because of a stupid act of bullying in an alleyway called Grasshopper Jungle, behind a dilapidated strip mall in a little recession-emptied Midwestern town.

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