Grasshopper Jungle Summary

Grasshopper Jungle Summary

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Austin, the main protagonist and narrator of the book, is a young boy living in the fictional town of Eagling, Iowa. He is an amateur historian, and “Grasshopper Jungle” is his self-recorded history.

One day, as Austin and his best friend, Robby Brees, are out skating and smoking behind the Ealing Mall, they are approached by a group of boys from another high school. In addition to beating the two boys bloody, the boys throw Austin and Robby’s shoes and skateboards on the top of the Ealing Mall. When Robby and Austin climb up to the roof of the building, wanting to fetch their things, they find a trap door that leads to the inside of the “From Attic to Seller Consignment Store”, where Austin works part time. He wants to check out what his boss has in his office, and they decide to climb in.

Inside the store, they find a mass vial called “Contained Plague 412E”, and other human pieces. Suddenly, the bullies that beat them up earlier come in, and the pair of boys hide. The bullies take the vial with the plague and throw the mass where Robby’s blood lies from the earlier beating. As the vial is broken, the plague infects all the bullies, as well as the people that happen to be close by the group.

When Robby and Austin are in Shann’s house, they find a machine that tells them that the 412E plague is in the atmosphere, and that they must flee to the silo. The trio looks around, and they find a shelter, and when they walk inside, a welcome video starts playing. It tells them that the plague was one of their scientists’ way of making unstoppable soldiers for the department of defense. The only way to kill the soldiers is though the blood of the human that activated the plague. The trio tries their best at saving the town, but they are too late, and are forced to start a new life in the shelter called Eden.

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Grasshopper Jungle

Common Sense says

Parents say

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A lot or a little?

The parents’ gu >

Grasshopper Jungle offers precocious readers Andrew Smith’s excellent prose as well as references to poetry (“The Emperor of Ice-Cream” by Wallace Stevens and ” Dulce et Decorum Est ” by Wilfred Owen), rock ‘n’ roll ( mostly the Rolling Stones and their extensive recordings), the depravity of war, and the magic of sharing your favorite songs, poems, books, and movies with people you love.

What does it mean to be a hero? Does history repeat itself? How does culture and heritage affect your character? Does love have to be labeled as heterosexual or homosexual to have value? Can you truly love two people at the same time? Why does history repeat itself? These are some of the many questions posed in the story that will make readers think about everything: life, death, lust, love, music, literature, war, parenthood, ancestry, immigration, and the American Dream.

Austin and Robby are remarkably intelligent and realistically adolescent. Yes, Austin thinks about sex a lot, but he also thinks about the journey of his forebears to find love, family, and meaning in the United States. He loves his family, his girlfriend, and his best friend and would do anything for them, even though he’s believably self-centered at times. Robby is a “superhero” who bravely saves Austin’s life and puts himself in danger to save his mother.

An act of bullying (a group of teens punch and kick Austin and Robby after calling them “queers”) leads to a whole lot violence in the second half of the book. People are infected with a mold that turns them into giant praying-mantis-like bugs that hatch out of their human hosts. The giant bugs have two things on their mind: eating and mating, and both are accomplished violently. The bugs gorily eviscerate and eat people, leading to decapitation and squashed, open, mangled bodies. Whole families and eventually people in town are eaten or trampled by these Unstoppable Soldiers. A young man is injured and left without one leg (or testicles) during his deployment in Afghanistan.

Teen guys think about sex, and Austin doesn’t shy away from sharing just how often he thinks about sex, attraction, masturbation, and the possibility of a threesome with his girlfriend and best friend. Two characters lose their virginity without using any protection, and two male best friends experiment with each other (one is gay and one isn’t sure about his sexual orientation). A teen remembers his older brother having a sexual experience with two prostitutes. Adults have sex, and one couple in particular does it three times in one night. The themes of sex, love, sexual repression, and virginity constitute a major focus of the story.

Frequent cursing, in keeping with the teen characters in the story: for example, “f–k,” “s–t,” “a–hole,” “p–y,” “dick,” and “bitch.”

A few cars and rock albums/bands. Robby drives a Ford Explorer, and Austin pretty much only has T-shirts with band names and logos.

Sixteen-year-olds Austin and Robby smoke cigarettes and drink a bottle of wine. Adults drink, use meth, and discuss their youth when they smoked heroin and pot during the Vietnam War.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 2015 Michael L. Printz Honor book Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith is a coming-of-age novel that is so compellingly bizarre it’s sure to appeal to older teens and adults who appreciate authors such as Kurt Vonnegut, Franz Kafka, and Jonathan Safran Foer. Written from the perspective of a 16-year-old guy from the fictional Midwestern town of Ealing, Iowa, the book features many mature coming-of-age themes, such as sex and sexual orientation, ancestry, family relationships, friendship, war, violence (six-foot-tall praying-mantis-like bugs hatch from people and want to do two things: eat and copulate), strong language, and substance misuse (cigarettes, alcohol). Mature high-schoolers and reluctant teen readers will love the frank descriptions of what it’s like to be a smart but confused teenager who finds himself feeling aroused even as the world is falling apart around him.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

A violent, insane love story

Really really bad

What’s the story?

Andrew Smith’s nearly indescribable coming-of-age novel GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE chronicles the very bizarre history of 16-year-old Austin Szerba. A self-described Polish Lutheran kid from Ealing, Iowa (a fictional town), Austin tells the reader he doesn’t lie. So he admits that he’s deeply in love with his girlfriend, Shann Collins (with whom he’d really like to have sex for the first time), but he also confesses he’s attracted to his gay best friend, Robby Brees. One fateful day, Austin and Robby accidentally set in motion things that lead to the end of the world. starting with a half-dozen Ealing residents hatching into six-foot-tall praying-mantis-like carnivores who only want to do two things: eat and mate, much like teenagers. As the boys realize they’re the only ones who know what’s going on, Austin breaks up narrating the oncoming confrontation with the killer bugs with thoughts about everything from his Polish ancestors’ travails to his older brother’s time in Afghanistan to the list of obvious and unlikely things that arouse him.

Is it any good?

It’s a testament to Andrew Smith’s considerable skills as a writer that reading this book is reminiscent of reading One Hundred Years of Solitude or Slaughterhouse Five or Everything Is Illuminated. The plot is so scrambled that Austin tells you on the very first page that it includes “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.” And that’s basically all you need to know. The plot goes backward, sideways, and forward all at once, and on every page you realize what a genius Smith is to write this book about history and life and the importance of books for clever teens who will appreciate his candor, authenticity, and mastery of language.

As the bibliophile Austin so acutely explains, “you could never get everything in a book,” but “good books are always about everything.” It’s a bold statement, but Smith is clearly up to the task of writing an incredibly good book. Like any other remarkable book, this one is not for everyone, especially younger teens who aren’t mature enough to read the word “horny” without breaking into fits of laughter. But mature young readers — and, for that matter, adults — should take in Smith’s command of a story that smoothly includes references to volcanoes, the Holocaust, Vietnam, the Rolling Stones, BMX bikes, the vice president’s sex life, and unstoppable Iowa corn. Prepare to be sad when the book is over, because Smith has written one unforgettable, hilarious, and heartbreaking tale about what makes us human and happy and passionate about life.

Talk to your k >

Families can talk about the importance of literature in Grasshopper Jungle. What does Austin mean by saying “you could never get everything in a book,” but that “good books are always about everything”? How is poetry a way of bonding for Austin and Robby?

Discuss the various genres of the book. It’s a coming-of-age story, but there are sci-fi and apocalyptic elements mixed with family chronicle and teen romance. What did you think of the book tackling so many different issues?

Talk about how sex and losing one’s virginity are major themes of the book. Is the candor about adolescent sexuality authentic or inappropriate? Talk about the significant role of sex in the story and in young adult literature. Is reading about sex different from watching depictions of it on TV or in movies?

New Regency in Talks to Board Edgar Wright’s Apocalyptic Movie ‘Grasshopper Jungle’

Dave McNary

Dave’s Most Recent Stories

New Regency is in talks to come on board Edgar Wright’s apocalyptic movie “Grasshopper Jungle.”

Wright annouced in 2014 that he would direct the film. At that point, the project was set up at Sony with Matt Tolmach and Nira Park producing, who remain as producers but the studio is no longer attached to the project. Netflix was also bidding for the movie rights.

Based on Andrew Smith’s young adult novel, the film will tell the story of a high school boy and his two friends who inadvertently cause a genetically-engineered plague that unleashes giant praying mantises that they must battle. Released in February of 2014, “Grasshopper Jungle,” was set in the fictional town of Ealing, Iowa, in which insects take over the world.

Scott Rosenberg wrote the script.

Wright’s directing credits include “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” and the upcoming “Baby Driver,” which stars Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey. The Sony movie premiered at South by Southwest in March and footage was shown later that month at CinemaCon, generating a positive response. “Baby Driver” hits theaters on June 28.

New Regency’s most recent productions include “The Revenant,” “Assassin’s Creed,” “Rules Don’t Apply,” and “A Cure for Wellness.”

Wright is repped by CAA and Anonymous Content.

Grasshopper Jungle Summary & Study Gu >Andrew Smith

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Grasshopper Jungle Summary & Study Guide Description

Grasshopper Jungle Summary & Study Gu >

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith.

“Good books are about everything,” writes Austin Szerba, narrator of the novel “Grasshopper Jungle” by Andrew Smith. The teenager, who considers himself an amateur historian, has taken it upon himself to record the history of his life, which turned out to include the end of the world. The novel also addresses issues like ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, friendship and the lifecycle of a strange form of mold that turned humans into over-sized, man-eating indestructible bugs.

Austin’s story began when he and his best friend, Robby Brees, were beaten up while smoking and skating in the alleyway behind the Ealing Mall, an area they called Grasshopper Jungle. The boys, Grant Wallace and some others from Hoover High School, threw Robby and Austin’s shoes and skateboards on top of the roof of the Ealing Mall as an additional insult. After the fight, Robby tried to write the message “GRANT WALLACE MURDERED ME” on the pavement behind the mall using the blood coming from his nose.

Later that night when Austin and Robby went back to Grasshopper Jungle to retrieve their things from the roof of the mall, they found the roof access trap door that led into the secondhand store where Austin worked part time. Austin decided to see what his boss, Johnny McKeon, was hiding in his office. They found a globe filled with some sort of writhing, glowing mass labeled “Contained Plague 412E”; along with other globes containing a pair of hands, a penis and a two-headed baby boy. While there, they are surprised by Grant Wallace and his friends. Austin and Robby hid while Grant and the other boys looked at the things in the office. They took the globe with the glowing mass.

As they left the mall building, Grant and his friends dropped the globe containing the mass on top of the blood from Robby’s earlier nosebleed. These four boys, along with three other people who happen to be in the alley in the course of the next few hours, were infected with this strange plague that made them hatch into huge, man-eating praying mantis like creatures that only want to eat and have sex.

Meanwhile, Robby and Austin found a teletype machine inside the wall of their friend Shann Collin’s house. The machine was typing a message telling them the 412E plague had been detected in the atmosphere and they were to go to the silo. The three went exploring and found an underground shelter with an opening where a silo had once been on the farm. The shelter had everything a human population would need to survive. A welcome film introduced them to the shelter, named the Eden Project, and outlined the history of McKeon Industries, a plant that had once been the biggest employer in Ealing.

In an effort to produce Unstoppable Soldiers for the department of defense, scientists at McKeon Industries had produced the mass that caused humans to turn into huge praying mantis like bugs that ate humans. Dr. Grady McKeon, the founder of the company, gave instructions on an introduction to Eden film that the only way to kill the Unstoppable Soldiers was by shooting them with the blood of the human host of the plague. In this case, that person was Robby, as it was his blood in Grasshopper Jungle that allowed the plague to active. Although they gave it their best effort, the boys were not successful in reclaiming the town of Ealing from the massive insects. With Shann’s parents and Robby’s mother and her boyfriend, they start a new life and human species in Eden.

Edgar Wright’s ‘Grasshopper Jungle’ Leaps Back into Play and Might Be His Next Film

Posted on Thursday, April 13th, 2017 by Ben Pearson

After Shaun of the Dead writer/director Edgar Wright left Ant-Man a few years ago, he was shopping a few projects around town in an attempt to set up his next movie. As you know, Baby Driver ended up being first in line, but one of the other films he was mulling over in that time was Grasshopper Jungle, an adaptation of Andrew Smith’s young adult novel in which a teenager and his friends accidentally unleash a swarm of six-foot-tall praying mantises on his town.

Now that Baby Driver is racing into theaters sooner than we thought, Wright’s again on the hunt for his newest project – and it looks like a familiar project has reared its head once again. Read on for the latest about Edgar Wright’s Grasshopper Jungle.

The Hollywood Reporter brings word that New Regency is in final negotiations to pick up the project. Back in 2014, it was Sony who was interested, but considering that New Regency is located on the 20th Century Fox lot and has a distribution deal with Fox, it sounds as if this will be Wright’s first dealing with that studio. (He made his first four features with Universal, and Baby Driver at Sony.)

Here’s the full description of Smith’s book:

Simmering within Ealing, Iowa, is a deadly genetically engineered plague capable of unleashing unstoppable soldiers—six-foot-tall praying mantises with insatiable appetites for food and sex. No one knows it, of course, until Austin and his best friend Robby accidentally release it on the world. An ever-growing plague of giant, flesh-hungry insects is bad enough, but Austin is also up to his eyeballs in sexual confusion—is he in love with Robby or his girlfriend, Shann? Both of them make him horny, but most things do. In an admittedly futile attempt to capture the truth of his history, painfully honest Austin narrates the events of the apocalypse intermingled with a detailed account of the “connections that spiderweb through time and place,” leading from his great-great-great-grandfather Andrzej in Poland to Shann’s lucky discovery of an apocalypse-proof bunker in her new backyard. Smith is up to his old tricks, delivering a gruesome sci-fi treat, a likable punk of a narrator, and a sucker punch ending that satisfyingly resolves everything and nothing in the same breath.

Apocalyptic action with an obvious metaphorical undercurrent? Sounds like a pitch perfect match for Wright’s sensibilities. This won’t be the director’s first adaptation of a another property, either: his take on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a terrific movie that retains the essence of the comics while being filtered through his unique style of filmmaking. I expect we’ll see something similar with Grasshopper Jungle.

Weirdly, this book came to his attention through a Facebook comment. Here’s hoping we all “like” what he does with the movie. (I’m so sorry.)

Comment Now!

Edgar Wright’s Next Film ‘Grasshopper Jungle’ in Final Negotiations to Land at New Regency

by Haleigh Foutch April 12, 2017

It’s felt like an awfully long wait for the next Edgar Wright film since great Ant-Man SNAFU of 2014, but fortunately, that wait is almost over with Baby Driver riding high on glowing festival reviews into a fresh new June 28 release date. Should the universe chose to be kind in these dark and trying times, it seems we might not have a very long wait before we know what he’s doing next.

Per The Hollywood Reporter, Wright is gearing up to direct an adaptation of Andrew Smith‘s insane sounding novel Grasshopper Jungle for his next film and New Regency is final negotiations to pick up the project. This lines up with what we heard way back in 2014, when Wright was just gearing up to film Baby Driver. New Regency reportedly won the rights in a bidding war that included Netflix among other contenders. Grasshopper Jungle would team Wright with the creatives behind the upcoming Venom and Jumanji movies, screenwriter Scott Rosenberg and Matt Tolmach, who will produce alongside Wright’s producing partner Nira Park. The project was previously set up at Sony.

The book follows a teenage boy dealing with sexual confusion who accidentally unleashes an apocalyptic genetically engineered plague on the world that brings about… wait for it … six-foot-tall praying mantises who fuck. I didn’t make that up. I wish I came up with that, but I didn’t. Here is the full bonkers plot synopsis for the book so you can get your hype levels up to mine:

Simmering within Ealing, Iowa, is a deadly genetically engineered plague capable of unleashing unstoppable soldiers—six-foot-tall praying mantises with insatiable appetites for food and sex. No one knows it, of course, until Austin and his best friend Robby accidentally release it on the world. An ever-growing plague of giant, flesh-hungry insects is bad enough, but Austin is also up to his eyeballs in sexual confusion—is he in love with Robby or his girlfriend, Shann? Both of them make him horny, but most things do. In an admittedly futile attempt to capture the truth of his history, painfully honest Austin narrates the events of the apocalypse intermingled with a detailed account of the “connections that spiderweb through time and place,” leading from his great-great-great-grandfather Andrzej in Poland to Shann’s lucky discovery of an apocalypse-proof bunker in her new backyard.

“Grasshopper Jungle” by Andrew Smith, review by Melissa Fox

It’s the end of the world. And Austin Szerba, 16 years old and more confused about life than he feels he should be, is our historian and guide.

Neither is a pretty sight.

The end of the world came about thus: Austin and his best friend Robby were beat up by some local homophobic bullies for being gay (in Robby’s case) and friends with the gay guy (in Austin’s case, though he’s not sure he’s not gay, or at least bisexual). As a result, Robby bled on the pavement. Later that night, they broke into Austin’s girlfriend’s stepfather’s office, and were followed by the bully-thugs. The thugs stole the orb of super-strong mutant bacteria, broke the orb on the pavement, where it mixed with Robby’s blood, and turned a half dozen people into six-foot-tall, unstoppable praying mantis soldiers that have two purposes in mind: to procreate and to eat everything. (And by everything, I mean Every. Thing.)

Austin dutifully — and in sometimes graphic detail — puts this down on paper, because he’s a historian, and it’s his responsibility to tell as much of the truth as possible. (My favorite observation: “History provides a compelling argument that every scientist who tinkers around with unstoppable shit needs a reliable flamethrower.”) And that truth includes his own history, and his family’s role in the End of the World, as well as his own personal journey and discoveries about himself, his sexuality, and, well, life. It’s a strange mix of the profound and the weird, the hilarious and the obscene, and the small moments that make life what it is, in all its dirty, messy wonderfulness.

It’s not a comfortable book to read — there are no winners, there is no grand “hurrah” moment where everything comes out All Right. But, there is much to think about in this book, and much to talk about. From the way Austin treats women to the satire on small town life to the indirect commentary on corporate tinkering with genetics, Smith has written a novel that defies categorization and expectation.

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