In other exciting news (in my world, which is pretty dull!), I have been asked to review books for Young Adult Books Central! They send me books, especially for middle grade boys, which makes me very happy!
Hiaasen, Carl. Chomp
Review copy received from publisher for YA Books Central.
Wahoo's dad, Mickey Cray, has a business renting exotic animals for film sets. While he is recovering from an iguana-induced concussion, Wahoo's mom has to go to China, and Wahoo accepts a contract to supply animals for Expedition Survival! during his summer vacation so the family has some money coming in. The star of the show, Derek Badger, stages most of the show, and there's never any real danger, and Mickey gets so annoyed with his showmanship that he sabotages the filming in small ways, to the amusement of Wahoo as well as the film crew. Wahoo needs some amusement-- he's still concerned about his father's headaches, as well as Tuna, a girl from his class. Tuna lives with her alcoholic, abusive father in a trailer in the parking lot of the local Wal-Mart, and after her most recent beating has sought refuge with the Crays. When one of Derek's stunts goes terribly wrong and he is bitten on the tongue by a bat, the Everglades become dangerous for real. Tuna's father is hunting her down, Derek is roaming about in an infection induced state of paranoia that he will turn into a vampire like Dax Mangold from the Night Wing books, and Wahoo needs to make sure that Tuna stays safe and Derek's injury doesn't ruin his father's business. Sound hectic, complicated, and a bit hilarious? Absolutely.
Strengths: Derek is a great character, sort of the evil, bumbling twin of Steve Irwin. His own hubris makes it funny that Mickey Cray turns animal after animal against him without injuring him. Hiaasen always does great running-around-avoiding-danger; this reminded me a little of the late, great Donald Westlake. I am also glad to see that the publisher has kept the same style of covers-- Hoot came out in 2002, and the cover doesn't seem dated at all.
Weaknesses: There is no mystery in this, which I expected, and some of it does seem a bit mean spirited. Tuna's father is also rather disturbing. That said, I was never a huge fan of Hiaasen's other books, although they certainly circulate well, but this might be my favorite of his middle grade titles.