Rating: 5 stars
“Skink — No Surrender” is Carl Hiaasen’s first young adult novel, and one can only hope it will not be his last. In this novel, Hiassen brings back one of his greatest character creations — Skink. Skink is the nickname for Clinton Tyree, a one-time governor of Florida who disappeared in the middle of his term. He has since been spotted eating roadkill, wearing a shower cap, and punishing those who deface or harm Florida’s wildlife.
Richard, the protagonist of this story, is a teen with angst. He misses his father terribly since he was killed in an accident several years previously. His stepfather is more like a brother, and his actual brothers are at college. When his cousin disappears, Richard is bereft.
An unlikely encounter with Skink on a beach (Skink is trying to catch those who dig up turtle eggs to sell them) leads them both on a rescue mission to save Richard’s cousin, Malley, from the person she ran away with.
Readers will alternately laugh and cry as the pair struggles through storms, wild pigs, monstrous alligators and loaded guns to rescue Malley. Skink becomes like a father (or grandfather) figure to Richard and helps him learn about the right thing to do. While Skink may be a crazy “old fart,” as his mysterious buddy calls him, he’s as honorable and moral as any literary hero.
Skink is one of the great fictional characters, and it’s wonderful that Hiaasen decided to share him with younger readers. While his adult novels are filled with passion, violence, Florida ecology and lots of humor, his middle grade books like “Chomp” and “Scat” contain younger-style adventures with plenty of Hiaasen’s trademark ecology lessons built in.
With this young adult book, Hiassen has possibly found a perfect niche. He can reel in young adult readers who will enjoy his adventure and sharp wit and then, in a few years, begin reading the adult Hiassen novels.
Hiassen, for those not in the know, began as a reporter at the Miami Herald. His bio says, “Since 1985 Hiaasen has been writing a regular column, which at one time or another has pissed off just about everybody in South Florida, including his own bosses.”
Readers of all ages will enjoy this adventure filled with crazy Florida characters.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Knopf, for review purposes.