Tag Archives: apocalypse

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

23 Apr

18079719Title: Grasshopper Jungle
Author: Andrew Smith
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Genre: Apocalyptic deliciousness
Page Count: 432

I read somewhere that human beings are genetically predisposed to record history.

This is a novel about a lot of things, but for the sake of simplifying it down to a pithy blurb, let’s just say that it’s about a sixteen-year-old boy named Austin who is going through some serious angst about his sexuality – namely, that he simultaneously loves and wants to have sex with his girlfriend, Shann, and his best friend, Robby – and it is also about the apocalypse via giant, voraciously hungry and horny praying mantises that the two boys accidentally unleash. Oops.

I would like to start by saying holy shit.

I finished this book last night, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around how insanely awesome it is. It’s basically a combination of some of the things I love most in the world: a complex coming-of-age story that incorporates questions of sexuality; a really, really, REALLY fucking weird B science fiction movie-esque apocalypse story; and a unique, pitch-perfect voice. A lot of reviews have drawn parallels to Kurt Vonnegut and Philip K. Dick, and you know what? Those comparisons are well deserved.

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Ashes by Ilsa Bick

23 Feb

I’m going to preface this review by making a somewhat controversial statement: I don’t really like zombies very much. For whatever reason the wide world is obsessed with the undead and has been for years, but to be honest zombie apocalypse scenarios are usually too stressful for me to actually enjoy them. I know for a fact that I would kill myself next to immediately if the dead started rising from the grave, so watching and/or reading about people struggling to survive when I know that, in their shoes, I’d rather just die and get it over with is pretty unbearable. That said, I am totally hooked on The Walking Dead, so go figure. Anyways, when Ilsa Bick’s Ashes was listed inĀ Voice of Youth Advocates’ list of “Perfect Tens of 2011,” I decided to swallow my general dislike of of zombies and give it a go.

In Ashes, seventeen-year-old Alexandra has cut school to go hiking in Michigan’s Waucamaw Wilderness when a massive electromagnetic pulse lights up the sky, making blood geyser out of everyone’s mouths and driving animals into a frenzy. Alex happens to be chatting with a young girl named Ellie and her grandfather on the trail when disaster strikes; after the crushing pain subsides, Alex realizes that that gramps has dropped dead in his tracks, leaving her responsible for the grief-stricken little girl. But wait, there’s more! Alex, who had lost her sense of smell in her battle against brain cancer (affectionately referred to as “the monster” throughout the novel), realizes that something about the EMP making her nervous system go bonkers made her regain her sense of smell and then some. Her animalistic ability to detect the layered nuances of emotions that make up a living thing’s scent is what alerts her to the zombie element of the story, for while the EMP left her alive with some sort of crazy olfactory super-powers, it left the majority of the young survivors totally brain fried, pushing them into a cannibalistic, monstrous feeding frenzy. As Alex and Ellie traipse through the cannibal teenager infested woods towards the hope of safety, they meet Tom, a young man stranded in the forest after his companions are transformed and/or killed by the EMP. The three form a pseudo-family as they struggle to survive in a nightmarish, post-apocalyptic world in which most of the surviving youngsters have been transformed into something less than human and the remaining adults have devolved into a state of desperate, murderous paranoia.

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