"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Grasshopper Jungle dilemma

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith is quite clearly one of the most talked about Young Adult novels of the year. Now I know why. It is "a rollicking tale that is simultaneously hilarious and creepy" (NYT).

In the opening lines of the book we learn humans are "genetically predisposed to record history" and that is what Austin Szerba, our narrator, does. He writes down everything...everything that is happening around him as the end of the world comes into view. He not only writes about the events that led up to the night when he and Robby inadvertently set into motion a chain reaction which releases a plague strain into their community, but he also writes about his confused feelings toward both his girlfriend, Shann, and his best friend, Robby. He spares no details when it comes to the working of the teenage male brain, either. This is a sci-fi apocalyptic coming-of-age story all rolled into one tale.

Here are just a few lines from the editorial reviews of the book:
This raunchy, bizarre, smart and compelling sci-fi novel defies description – it's best to go into it with an open mind and allow yourself to be first drawn in, then blown away. ---Rolling Stone
If you appreciate kooky humor, sentences that bite, and a nuanced understanding of human beings’ complicated natures and inexplicable actions, then you, too, will love Smith’s bold, bizarre, and beautiful novel.The Boston Globe
The end of the world comes with neither a bang nor a whimper but with a dark chuckle and the ominous click-click of giant insect mandibles in this irreverent, strangely tender new novel by Andrew Smith. This but hints at the intricately structured, profound, profanity-laced narrative between these radioactive-green covers.The Washington Post
No author writing for teens today can match Andrew Smith’s mastery of the grotesque, the authentic experiences of teenage boys or the way one seamlessly becomes a metaphor for the other.”BookPage, Top February Teen Pick
How lucky we are that it gets marketed with the label "Young Adult." Because of that, it'll get banned and challenged and more teens than ever will actually read it. I needed this book 22 years ago when I was 16. I have a hunch there are some 16 year olds around who still do.   ---Aaron Hartzler, author of Rapture Practice 
The Aaron Hartzler quote leads to my dilemna. If Grasshopper Jungle is one of the best YA novels of the year, then it will surely be considered for the Printz Award. If it will be considered for the award, then I should certainly contemplate adding it to our Mock Printz list of books for 2014. But the book is raunchy. Read between the lines when I say "spares no details when it comes to the working of the teenage male brain."

What is a public school librarian to do? I want to include this book for its literary merit but I dare not for fear that the whole Mock Printz workshop gets axed by angry parents when they find out what kind of "smutty books" (Music Man reference) I am handing out. If it were just up to me I'd be willing to stay with Grasshopper Jungle even though it is full of confused sexual feelings, a pooping dog, horny man-eating praying mantises and more. But on this one, I'm thinking my hands are tied. The book will remain in the library, I just won't recommend that we include it on the Mock Printz list.

Have you read Grasshopper Jungle? Can you give me any advice to ease my dilemna?

30 books Summer Reading Challenge

13 / 30 books. 43% done!


  1. I am also a public school librarian and wondering if I should buy this for my library. It is such a good book, and I want kids to have a chance to read it. But, I'm in Kansas, and if you know much about Kansas, we often have issues with school things. So I'm debating whether to purchase it or not. I'd love to have you read my review, and tell me if you are still planning to buy it for your library, HERE.

  2. No matter how we present Grasshopper Jungle, teens will read it. Yes, the constant references to masturbation, straight and gay sexual angst and mutant grasshoppers who live to eat & f*** will offend most parents. However, as a YA title, it was NOT written for adults. I have teen boys who will rip through this and recommend it immediately. I gave this to one of my seasoned library patrons (a girl who has very expansive reading tastes) and her review was, "that is perhaps the weirdest book I've ever read." Specifically, I think its audience will be boys who will relate to the teen narrator's honest struggles with sexuality, friendship and mutants. The ending is a bit pat for me: however, I will have it in the library and offer a very open and honest chat with each checkout.

    1. Sandy, I am with you about having it in the library and I suspect it will be popular but I don't really think it should be a book we add to our Mock Printz list because then parents will have a case for saying that we told their child to read this "smutty book." If a student checks it out then we could say that the kid selected it. That plays out differently in my mind.


I look forward to your comments and interactions! Join in the conversation.