Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review: Chomp by Carl Hiaasen (MG)

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen
Knopf (an imprint of Random House), 304 Pages
US Release Date: March 27, 2012
Source: ARC sent from Publisher (thanks Random House!)
Ages: 10+ (Middle Grade)

Wahoo Cray lives in a zoo. His father is an animal wrangler, so he's grown up with all manner of gators, snakes, parrots, rats, monkeys, snappers, and more in his backyard. The critters he can handle. His father is the unpredictable one. 

When his dad takes a job with a reality TV show called "Expedition Survival!", Wahoo figures he'll have to do a bit of wrangling himself—to keep his dad from killing Derek Badger, the show's boneheaded star, before the shoot is over. But the job keeps getting more complicated. Derek Badger seems to actually believe his PR and insists on using wild animals for his stunts. And Wahoo's acquired a shadow named Tuna—a girl who's sporting a shiner courtesy of her old man and needs a place to hide out.

They've only been on location in the Everglades for a day before Derek gets bitten by a bat and goes missing in a storm. Search parties head out and promptly get lost themselves. And then Tuna's dad shows up with a gun . . .

It's anyone's guess who will actually survive "Expedition Survival". . .
--------------------------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote
"Was your dad trying to shoot you?" he asked Tuna...
...Tuna blinked the raindrops from her eyelashes and thought about the answer. Finally, she said, "I think he was aiming for the motor. That's what I choose to believe."

I haven't reviewed many Middle Grade novels on my blog (I think I've done 3...maybe?), but they're another "genre" that I really love - much like YA, I love the innocence that can be approached. Middle Grades can potentially be formidable years, and I love reading books that help children along and can really shape who they turn out to be.

Chomp is definitely one of those that can help a child turn into a pretty damn awesome person. (Wait, should I be using "damn" in a MG review? Hmmm...)

Can we first talk about the cover, though? I've never read any of Carl Hiaasen's books, but I've known who he is because of his covers.  Hoot is most recognizable to me, but all of them have a very distinct, childlike, almost comic bookish feel - and he's always got the most eye-popping colors!  I really love them.

Chomp follows Wahoo Cray, son of animal wrangler Mickey Cray, who together maintain their zoo of a household -- and by zoo, it really is.  They've got snakes, raccoons, snapping turtles, monkeys, and one very sweet massive alligator, affectionately named Alice. I have to admit that the amount of names in the book are a bit confusing, especially when a lot of them are odd names for people (funnily enough, most of the animals have "human" names, whereas two of the humans are named Wahoo and Tuna. Go figure).  I loved all the little facts about the various animals, they're seamlessly worked into the writing where I barely realize I'm learning at the same time!

The Crays take a job working for a Survivalist Reality TV show because they're struggling for money, and from then on it's just one hilarious adventure after the other; especially when a girl named Tuna pops into their lives as a runaway from her abusive father. The backdrop of a Reality TV show lends so much to the plot, showing just how things that seem may not actually be.  Derek Badger, the bumbling idiot star of the TV show, is such an overbearing, terrible person that it becomes comical and almost endearing. Each character is so distinct and fun in their own weird little way that you can't help but love them all.  Wahoo is a solid main character, absorbing the others around him with a quiet patience. He's lovable and brave, and his growth as he goes on is subtle but meaningful.

Hiaasen does really well weaving breathtaking terror with giggle-inducing dry humor, maintaining a strong voice and stronger lessons. Each page had me flipping to the next, desperate to know what would happen to Wahoo and Tuna, Tuna's dad and Mickey, even Derek Badger.

Despite a premise that screams humor, Hiaasen does tackle some heavy stuff: family relationships, alcohol, money struggles, abusive parents, stubbornly idiotic grown ups...all the while framing it through childhood innocence and an unfailing belief in the strength and integrity of human nature.

Filled with glowing characters, entertaining situations and poignant innocence, Chomp is a perfect and satisfying read for the Middle Grade.

4 Stars / 5 

1 comment:

  1. Amy @ bookgoonieMarch 28, 2012 at 4:10 AM

    Hiassen is very interesting to me. His MG has come highly recommended, but I've only read his adult stuff. I need to get in one of his great MG books. Maybe Chomp. Thanks for the review.


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