Grasshopper Jungle/Andrew Smith: Reflections

Friday, April 4, 2014

Andrew Smith.

They talk about him. They say, He's one of the smartest guys in the room. They say, He's one of the most charming. They say, Have you read? You've got to read. Here, they say. Is Grasshopper Jungle.

My friends, I've now had the privilege of reading this bright lime green marvel of a book, too. Plot synopsis, as provided by the flap copy:
In the small town of Ealing, Iowa, Austin and his best friend, Robby, have accidentally unleashed an unstoppable army. An army of horny, hungry, six-foot-tall praying mantises that only want to do two things.

This is the truth. This is history.

It's the end of the world. And nobody knows anything about it.

You know what I mean.
There, in those lines, is the confident craziness of the scheme, the rhythm of the tale, the sounds-convincingly-like-a-teen-but-is-written-by-a-guy-who-studied-Political-Science,-Journalism,-and-Literature-at-college-ness. This book is big, jammed with the promised promiscuity, the necessary confusions, and the wild what if's of a world that has turned terrible toxins on itself. One reads to see what will happen next, what can happen next, what these likable, mixed-up, also truly human characters are going to fumble upon next. It's sci fi. It's something else. It's Drew Smith.

Usually I quote from the pages of the stories themselves. But I just read the final final words, which happen to sit in the acknowledgments. There's a paragraph I really like, I really get, I really jive with. There's a paragraph that reminds all writers everywhere of how so much of our lives is predicated on finding just the right reader at the right time. Drew Smith now has a world full of readers. But this book all began with an agent who cared.
About two years ago, I decided to stop writing. Well, to be honest, not the verb writing, but I decided to get out of the business aspect of it, for which I have absolutely no backbone. I never felt so free as when I wrote things that I believed nobody would ever see. Grasshopper Jungle was one of those things. It was more-or-less fortune, then, that I happened to show the first portion of the novel to my friend Michael Bourret. He talked me into not quitting.
I'll be joining Drew Smith as well as Nina LaCour, Black Nelson, and Dana Reinhardt on the Tayshas Reading List and Authors next Thursday in San Antonio, TX. I can't wait to meet all the panelists and our moderator. Maybe we'll see you there.


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