Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.
To make matters worse, Austin’s hormones are totally oblivious; they don’t care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He’s stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it’s up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.
Seriously… WTF was this book?
I bounced between a 4-star and a 5-star rating for about 12 hours. Mainly because this book was a lot to process, but not in a bad way. Andrew Smith is crazy. This book is crazy. The plot is crazy. The characters were extremely hormonal (they’re teenagers – boys, at that!). I cannot begin to count how many times Smith used the word ‘horny’ while we were in Austin’s, the main character, head!
Anyway, this story follows the life of Austin Szerba and his confusion over his sexual orientation. That, to me, was the primary focus. He was in love with his girlfriend (since the 7th grade), Shann and also with his best friend, Robby. Through his trying to figure out his preferences, he and Robby accidentally unleashed a plague upon the small town of Ealing, IA. People become infected/infested with parasitic “stuffs” and mutant grasshoppers hatch from within their bodies. Gross, I know!
This is definitely a weird adventure. And I don’t use that term lightly. While the grasshopper part was interesting enough, I found myself more interested in Austin and his relationship struggles. He is a comical, though horny boy who likes to feel good and he always has sex on the brain. I laughed out loud at times, especially when he was telling stories about getting in trouble for reading specific books or when he and Robby were “experimenting”. It felt awkward because it was, but it was also one of my favorite moments in the book.
The characters DID fall a bit flat for me at time, while I really enjoyed Robby, I didn’t come to learn too much about him. Shann — I really knew nothing about her personally. Austin was the only one that I can say that I kind of knew the most, but that’s because we were in his head the entire time.
This time around, I feel that Smith focused on the weird, complex plot of mutant grasshoppers and Austin’s sexual orientation experimenting. Not a bad thing, but I do kind of feel like something was sacrified for the sake of the weird plot.
With that being said, I enjoyed the book. I like how weird it was, I like Austin’s confusion over Shann & Robby. While this book is primarily about a boy’s adolescence and self-discovery, Smith threw in some Storm Trooper crap to make it more interesting. And it was absolutely more interesting. I 100% like “Winger” a lot better, but this one was not a bad read at all!