Newbery Honor award-winning author, Carl Hiassen, has written another gem for his young adult readers. His love and knowledge of wildlife was intermingled with a meaningful lesson and an enthralling plot. The returning character, Skink, and his unseen sidekick, Tide, bring a fun, quirky bit of nostalgia for Carl Hiassen’s devout followers. But fear not; there was adventure and laughter even for first time readers of Carl Hiassen’s work. The unique names, the bizarre yet unstoppable hero, and mention of well-loved classic literature brought a lighter aspect to the cold, hard reality of kidnapping. (Toned down to a youth appropriate, G-rated level.) Carl Hiassen didn’t pull any punches when writing about the urgency of Amber Alerts, the cruelty of assaulters, and the desperation of parents as they seek their missing children. Frankly, I intend to have my daughter read this book when she reaches her early teen years as a wake-up call and caution her about online predators.
The spellbinding plot begins with the introduction of Richard, a young teen still reeling from the untimely death of his father. He looks forward to the simple things in life: exploring the beaches and searching for sea turtle nests, getting his driver’s permit and playing beach sports. When his rebellious cousin, Malley, doesn’t rendezvous with him at the beach to look for turtle eggs, he knows that something is wrong. While walking along the beach, Richard finds a strange, homeless looking man with a fake eye breathing through a straw in a sea turtle’s nest. The man tells Richard that he is hiding in the nest because he was apprehending a poacher. The stranger then introduces himself as Clint Tyree, also known as Skink. The two get talking (Because who can’t resist striking up conversation with a creepy one-eyed guy who was hiding in a turtle’s nest?) and Richard mentions that his cousin didn’t show and he was worried. Skink takes personal interest in Richard’s story and says that he’ll look into it. When Richard goes by Malley’s house, her parents tell him that she had left early for boarding school. Malley’s parents were sending her to a boarding school because they didn’t quite know what to do with her. While Malley had acted impassive about leaving, Richard knew her better. He asks to go up to her room and finds a letter saying that she’s run away with her mysterious online boyfriend, Talbo Chock. But when Richard googles her boyfriend’s name, he discovers that Talbo Chock was a young marine corporal killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan a few months ago.
It’s an enthralling tale filled with boats, crocodiles, and hidden identities. From start to finish, the reader can never guess what is going to happen next. Carl Hiassen surprises the reader with fresh perspectives, witty humor and clever clues as Richard and his outlandish companion rush to save Malley before it’s too late.
On sale: September 23, 2014.