Skink—No Surrender, by Carl Hiaasen

Much has been made of the fact that Skink—No Surrender is Carl Hiaasen's first book for teenagers, but there isn't much of a difference between this and his books for either adult or child readers. If you're already a fan of Hiaasen's writing, get ready for another installment of Florida-specific weirdness. If you're a teen reader who is unfamiliar with Hiaasen... well, this might be a tougher sell.

When Richard Sloan's cousin Malley runs off with a sketchy older guy rather than let her parents ship her off to boarding school, Richard is determined to find her. He isn't much of a detective (seeing as he's not quite old enough to drive), but he sets off on an ill-fated rescue mission regardless, accompanied by Clinton Tyree—AKA “Skink”—a one-eyed, roadkill-eating former Florida governor turned environmental vigilante. Together, Richard and Skink face storms, alligators, and roadside litterers, all the while trying to decipher a series of increasingly troubling messages from Malley.

As with most of Hiaasen's books, 90% of the charm of Skink—No Surrender comes from its outlandish setting, the author's fierce interest in environmental issues, and Skink himself, a larger-than-life figure who serves as a kind of totem for the profoundly weird spirit of wild Florida. Unfortunately, the novel is dragged down by its central plot contrivance: the idea that a whip-smart teenage girl from a loving family would blithely take off with a random creeper she met online. I'm not saying that never happens (I'm sure it does), but it's the kind of tough-to-swallow storyline that people are going to question. If Hiaasen wants to expand his literary empire to include a bunch of new YA readers, he'd be well-advised to put a little more effort into creating believable teen characters, and rely a little less heavily on the appeal of a 72-year-old recluse. Don't get me wrong: Skink is a delight, but I doubt young readers will accept his snarky one-liners in place of a plausible female protagonist for long.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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