Friday, July 20, 2012

Review: Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

Published March 27 2012, Random House Children's Books

Remember Hoot? As far as I can remember, that was Carl Hiaasen's break-out middle-grade novel, Newbery Honor and all. He'd been writing a couple of other single-title middle-grade novels dealing with the environment, like Flush and Scat, so I grabbed this one from my library when I saw it.

Summary (adapted from Goodreads):
Wahoo Cray's father Mickey Cray is an animal wrangler, so he's used to dealing with all sorts of unstable critters. But when they sign on to supply wildlife for a reality TV show called Expedition Survival!, Wahoo's not certain he'll be able to keep his dad from killing Derek Badger, the obnoxious star with a fake Australian accent who actually believes he can manage the menagerie of gators, snakes and snappers. Shooting on location in the wilds of the Everglades doesn't help -- and within a day Derek's been bitten by a bat and is lost in a storm. With Wahoo providing shelter for a girl named Tuna hiding out from her abusive dad, the search for Derek isn't going exactly well... and then Tuna's dad shows up toting a gun. It's anyone's guess who'll actually survive Expedition Survival!...

 At first, I didn't remember Carl Hiaasen's writing style being so idiosyncratic. Using third-person, writers always run the risk of not getting the reader right into the protagonist's head; however, once I got into the rhythm of the quirky narration, Wahoo endeared himself to me, and the best quality of Hiaasen's style becomes apparent: his punchlines. This book is funny, and it's obvious that its author isn't afraid to go over-the-top. While Derek Badger is somewhat too annoying (it's hard to imagine anyone like that in real life), Wahoo's father is a realistically flawed man with firm morals, while Wahoo himself is practical, pragmatic and wise, making him and Tuna the perfect pair to track down the runaway adults.

The side characters are just as amusing: from older sister Julie studying law to the mercenary owner of the grounds which the film crew rents for the show, each personality adds to the novel's vibrant atmosphere. As well, the setting is lush and excellently incorporated, seeing how it's vital to the book's plot. Speaking of plot: Chomp boasts fantastic pacing, with a wacky, amazing climax and the perfect denouement that's sure to speak to middle-grade readers.

Basically, this book is everything we've come to expect from Carl Hiaasen. Rigorously satisfying.

(Also: who doesn't love a book with alligators, snapping turtles and snakes? :D)



  1. Thanks for reminding me about this author. I haven't read one of his books for a while. This one sounds great.

    1. No problem, Andrea! Hope you get around to it!

  2. I do love this cover. It's super simple and super effective! :)


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