Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Ealing, Iowa is a plain, normal town. Until Austin and Robbie Bree unleash something that might have doomed the entire world. It all started one regular day when Robbie and Austin were skating in a dark alley called Grasshopper Jungle. All of a sudden, a group of bullies from a nearby school, not from the private Lutheran one that Austin and Robbie went to, jumped them. They attacked the two, on the basis that Robbie was gay. They stole their skateboards, along with their shoes, and threw them up on the roof of a local oddities shop. They were scared off by Louis, a chef at a restaurant nearby. Austin and Robbie made a plan to get their belongings later, not not after writing with blood Grant W. Robbie had planned to write a sentence, but it so happened that his wound stopped bleeding after Grant W.

Later that night, just as they planned, Austin, Robbie, and Shann, Austin’s girlfriend, made their slow way to the pawn shop. Robbie and Austin made their way up to the roof, while Shann stayed as a lookout. The two boys retrieved their things, along with a pink flamingo with a metal rod out of it’s butt, and an odd smelling lemur mask. They put it to the side, along with their skateboards and shoes. Things then got a little awkward, when Robbie asks Austin to kiss him, because Robbie has never been kissed before. Austin, being the good friend that he is, allows him, but feels confused afterward, because he felt sexually aroused. He ignored that feeling, but then found a trapdoor down into the store, where Johnny, Shann’s stepfather, owned. They were not supposed to be there, but where there nonetheless. Because they had the opportunity, they snuck inside Johnny’s office, where they were forbidden before. Inside was a case of something called MI Plague Strain 412E. This was the beginning of the end.

As they explored the room, they could hear someone coming. They hid in a not so good hiding spot under Johnny’s desk, and could hear the bullies who attacked them before come in. Being the thugs they were, they stole some items, including the Plague Strain 412E. On the way out, though, they dropped the strain right on Robbie’s blood. They were the first infected. The infection then spread to Hungry Jack, a local homeless guy who lived around there. Then it somehow managed to get on two slices of pizza, where two others, a couple, were infected.

Robbie and Austin were there to witness when Hungry Jack hatched. He was hit by a car, and was still ‘alive’, technically. In reality, though, a giant, 6 foot creature that resembled a mantis, crawled out of Hungry Jack’s body. He, being an insect, had two urges. To mate, and to eat. He satisfied part of his hunger by eating the first Hungry Jack’s body. The others hatched soon afterward. They started wreaking havoc in Earling, Iowa, and Robbie, Shann and Austin were the only ones who could stop them.

Age Recommendation: 15+

Personal Opinion: This novel was masterfully written by Andrew Smith, as a teenage boy. Although I am not one, I was shocked by how truthfully and innocently as he wrote it. His writing is superb. He gives flashbacks, and often repeats things to put emphasis on it. I enjoyed his book, and the characters. Robbie, Austin, and Shann, along with all the other characters, especially Ingrid… love dogs… He addresses a lot of important current issues. (Jade’s Review- 4.3/5)

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Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell’s first book, Fangirl, was mostly centered about the fanfic that the main character wrote of Simon Snow. Rainbow decided that she wanted to expand the characters that she, as the main character, wrote about in Fangirl. This was the outcome.

Simon Snow was born a Normal human. He was abandoned at an orphanage when he was a baby, with the words, “Simon Snow,” written on his arm. When he was young, the Mage found him at the orphanage, and enrolled Simon in Watford, sort f like Hogwarts in Harry Potter. The Mage is sort of like Dumbledore, the headmaster and the Mage of all Magic. However, because he was a normal, Simon was not able to register regularly. He was only allowed to register when the Mage named Simon as his heir, and giving him a magic sword. Simon Snow was supposed to be proficied as the strongest mage to ever live, and he has a lot of power. However, he doesn’t know how to focus the power, and can usually not do even the simplest spells.

As a first year, he was paired with his roommate, Baz, whom he suspected to be a vampire. Baz and Simon hated each other, and viewed the other as each other’s nemesis. Baz has even made several attempts to kill Snow, though he stopped later. Every Summer, though, whenever the school year ended at Watford, the Mage sent Simon back to an orphanage, though not the same one every year. During that time, he was not to have contact with any of his friends, nor anyone magic.

The story takes place in Simon Snow’s 8th and final year at Watford. The year before, the antagonist, the Insidious Humdrum, summoned Simon Snow and his best friend, Penny. They managed to get away, though not without harm. The Magic world was at danger, for the Humdrum was creating ‘dead zones,’ places where there was no magic. Mages would go mad if they stood inside a dead spot for so long, because they felt like they were missing something vital for life.

When Simon got back to Watford for his 8th year, he met with Penny, who, after not hearing from Simon for a couple months, was naturally excited to see him. After she left, the Mage visited, and told Simon that he was not going to be attending Watford for this year. Instead, he would be hidden with a private tutor, away from the people (and Humdrum) who meant him harm. Simon adamantly refused, and insisted that he stayed at the academy, with his friends. The Mage relented, and Simon stayed.

The school year started, and Simon talked to Agatha, his girlfriend, who last year was spotted holding hands with Baz, his sword enemy. They both decided not to talk about it, but instead ignore it. Baz was nowhere to be seen, and Simon started to get anxious, for he didn’t want his enemy popping out of nowhere. Snow then began searching high and low for Baz, though he was nowhere to be seen.

When he finally shows up, Baz looks horrible. Not just in the pale, dead look like he always had, but a skinny, I’m starving, and I just got locked in a coffin for 6 weeks by nipsies look. And that’s exactly what happened. Baz told Snow later that he had been kidnapped by nipsies, which are sort of like mini troll creatures. During that time, the Veil opened, and Baz’s mother, a previous headmistress of Watford, was waiting for Baz. When he didn’t show up, she left a message with Snow to tell Baz.

They follow the message, which told them who killed Baz’s mother. This book is filled with mystery, magic, vampires, all the good stuff. I would recommend reading this book after you read fangirl, when you are reeling from the ending, and needing more Rainbow Rowell books. You learn about revenge, what happens with the Humdrum, and who the Mage is.

Recommended Age: 12+

Personal Opinion: I, as a teen myself, immensely enjoyed this novel. The writing techniques were smooth, seamless, and I wasn’t even able to put down the book for a second. I completely fell in love with all the characters, and wanted Baz and Simon to work out so badly. I really shared emotions with these characters, and cried at the ending, because I didn’t want the book to end. Because I enjoy fantasy and magic so much, it was like dessert. Because I also liked her first novel, Fangirl,  I also fell in love with this one. I would recommend this to anyone who is not looking for a regular cheesy romance novel, but a good, heart to heart one. (Jade’s Rating- 4/5)