Saturday, July 16, 2016

Audiobook Review: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. Unabridged audiobook download. 9 hours, 19 minutes. Read by Philip Church. Listening Library, 2014. (Free download courtesy of

Because Grasshopper Jungle reviews indicated a mature audience and I work in a 5th through 8th grade middle school, my copy of it languished on my tbr since it pubbed. I wanted to read it, but kept moving more age-appropriate books ahead. I tend to read more mature YA books with my ears so when audiobooksync offered it (and many other fantastic titles) this summer, I marked my calendar. 

Toward the end of this past school year, two eighth graders, a boy and a girl, who are vociferous readers were combing my shelves in search of a book to read. It really became a long and rambling book talk as titles were recommended but one or both had already read them. Somehow Andrew Smith came up. The boy threw his hands over his eyes and staggered back saying, "Grasshopper Jungle! Oh my god! That book traumatized me! I am scarred for life!" He would not elaborate when I asked what he meant. The girl, an aspiring actress, with sophisticated and eclectic taste, rolled her eyes and asked me if I read it. When I responded that I had not but wanted to, she told me that it was intense and mature but pretty good. 

Two excellent readers. Two wildly different reactions. One ready. One not. I happen to know both fairly well. The boy had commented that other books "traumatized" him - usually books with themes of sexual identity. I think he may be struggling. It doesn't stop him from seeking more out.

After reading the mindf*ck that is Grasshopper Jungle, I get it. Crude, lewd, hilarious, complex, loopy, and brilliant. It's a story about friendship, first love, sexuality, politics, unethical scientific research, survival, and the telling of history. It's pretty bloody brilliant but not for everyone.

The new-to-me-narrator's performance was perfectly voiced and perfectly paced. 

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