Skink: No Surrender
Knopf, 2014 281 pgs
Richard's crazy cousin Malley runs off with some older guy she met in a chat room on-line. Her parents and the police are hitting dead ends. Enter Stink; a former veteran/governor turned wild environmentalist vigilante, who looks deceivingly like a homeless person. Richard meets Skink while he is buried in the sand, breathing through a straw, patiently waiting to nab a turtle-egg thief. Skink agrees to team up with Richard to find Malley, clears it with Richard's folks, and the two unlikely heroes hit the road. Adventures and misadventures ensue involving edible road-kill, baby skunk rescues, and litter bugs who need to be taught a lesson. Stink and Richard become separated time and again, yet Skink manages to reappear just when Richard needs him the most. Finally the team tracks Malley down on a stolen house boat in a remote part of Florida. Malley is being held against her will and her captor is nasty, a bit unhinged, and has a gun. Between Skink's fearless strength, Richard and Malley's quick talking and thinking, and dumb luck they manage to escape and the evil kidnapper meets a deserving conclusion.
Hiaasen is known for his quirky characters, Florida setting, and environmental concerns. Skink: No Surrender falls right into this expectation. Skink is a reoccurring character in many of Hiaasen's adult novels (which I've admittingly never read, although I've read all of his novels for young people). He is an amazing character and certainly worthy of his own book. Skink threw fame and fortune away to follow ideals of importance to him. He is dirty, smelly, puts weird things into the socket of his missing eye, runs around in a bathing cap and care only about doing what he believes is right and ethical. Richard, still mourning the surprise loss of his beloved father, finds courage and confidence and, eventually, healing. Mallie discovers some much needed humility, accountability, and appreciation of her parents. The plot never flags and Hiaasen loves to throw some curve balls at us to keep us awake. The mystery involves finding Mallie and identifying the kidnapper. There is action galore, including a run-in with a gator (very Hiaasen-esque). Boys especially will love this book, but girls will like it too. The level of violence and suggestiveness of what may have happened to Mallie while being held captive make this this book more appropriate for a slighter older audience than Hiaasen's other books for young people. I hope we see Skink again. The world needs more real-life superheroes!