Recently, bunnybean and I discovered an awesome new (newish?) book store really close to our house. It’s on a weird little side street, and we had no idea there was a whole little world down there — coffee shop, Lebanese cafe, and a book store. And we found out that Sasha and Malia shop there, and that their dad does, too. Really, it’s a great little store.
One of my favorite things there is that all of the employees make notes on all of the books they’ve read or are reading. They put little paper stars on the front of display copies, saying things like “If you think Twilight ruined vampire stories for the rest of us, check out this one” on the cover of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, or a sign over a display of Rainbow Rowell books that simply says “THESE. YES. NOW.”.
I was in there a few weeks ago and saw the following:
And so, well, I had to buy it.
I’m so glad I did. This story cracked me up. And it made me want to listen to the Rolling Stones.
Yes, it’s a dire tale about the end of the world being brought about by the stupidity of a bunch of high school jocks in Iowa. Yes, it has heartbreakingly real scenes about sexual identity and general teenage confusion. Yes, there are depressing bits about injured soldiers and alcoholic mothers. And yes, I found myself giggling throughout the whole of it.
Austin is a teenage boy who lives in Iowa. He has a beautiful girlfriend, who he very much would like to have sex with. And he has a gay best friend, who he just might like to have sex with. Austin just doesn’t know. He does know that he loves them both, more than anything.
When the world as they know it starts to come crumbling down around them, Austin and his friends quickly piece together a bit of a crazy mystery. Ages ago, their town had been home to a company creating biological weapons for the government. Among those weapons, corn that would destroy the testicles of any man who ate it, and 8 foot tall insect soldiers. Insects that only want to eat (humans taste best) and create more and more insects. This company also created an underground bunker, in which to recreate civilization when and if the bugs were ever let loose into society. Luckily, when the bugs do arrive in town, Austin and his friends know about the bunker and get as many of their loved ones there as possible before the end.
The book is written as a series of journal entries — Austin fancies himself a bit of an historian, and writes down everything that happens to him. Everything. He’s obsessed with his Polish heritage, the history of his town, and how small decisions (like kissing your best friend on the roof of a pawn shop) can change everything. I’ve read a lot of criticism (including this fine review from ardaigle) about this narrative choice, but I think it worked. I liked the perspective here: Yes, everything is terrible…BUT, maybe, somehow, we could find a way to have sex?
This book is clearly not for everybody. Some of the bug scenes are grisly and disgusting. But I enjoyed it immensely. It reminded me a lot of a book I read ages ago…Please Ignore Vera Dietz by AS King. The plots are very, very different, but the feeling of the book is the same. I’ll be on the lookout for more by Andrew Smith.
And yes, this was the greatest book about giant homicidal praying mantises in the history of literature.