Monday, October 6, 2014

Skink No Surrender, by Carl Hiaasen

Staff  Review by Chris Hubbard 

Carl Hiaasen’s first book for teenagers is a fun white-knuckle ride of a novel that takes the reader on a perilous journey through the everglades of Florida. 

When 14-year-old Richard discovers that his cousin Malley has run away with a stranger she met via the internet, he is determined to bring her home. As fate would have it  Richard stumbles across a wild old man called Skink. We first meet Skink buried under beach sand, breathing through a drinking straw and on the lookout for turtle egg poachers.  Skink agrees to help Richard track down his cousin when it turns out that the disappearance is actually a kidnapping. When this very odd couple eventually track down Malley, who is being held captive aboard a houseboat, the action goes into overdrive. Gun toting baddies, feral pigs, elusive woodpeckers and a very hungry alligator all add to this book’s thrilling breakneck pace.

Skink No Surrender is full of classic Hiaasen characters but it is Skink with his dishevelled hippy appearance, one eye missing (shades of Long John Silver) and predilection for eating roadkill that makes for such a surprisingly appealing character. He is an ex-soldier, former governor who is now an eco-terrorist and hermit of the wilderness, handing out his own particular form of dude justice. Despite their initial differences, Skink and Richard soon bond, with Skink imparting a lot of funny yet insightful wisdom along the way. At one point Skink is hit by a truck when attempting to help a baby skunk across the road so he is forced to teach Richard to drive by sitting atop a hefty John Steinbeck novel. Skink is even able to persuade Richard, a budding birdwatcher, to read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

Carl Hiaasen’s ability to combine environmental and family concerns with crazy characters and dangerous locations make his latest novel for teenage readers a real gem.  Highly recommended!

Skink No Surrender, by Carl Hiaasen. Published by Indigo. ISBN: 9781780622255  RRP: $19.99

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