Cover image of "Skink: No Surrender," a Carl Hiaasen YA novel

Carl Hiaasen‘s love for nature comes to the fore on every page of his latest novel, Skink: No Surrender. Unfortunately, his outsize talent for humor rarely comes to the surface. This is a young adult novel of suspense with a fourteen-year-old protagonist. Maybe the kid’s sense of humor simply hasn’t grown up yet.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Carl Hiaasen is usually funny

Set in Florida like all of Hiaasen’s novels, Skink is the story of a kidnapping, an elaborate and protracted rescue, and one of the author’s cherished characters in old age. “Skink” is the nickname of a deranged former Governor of Florida who has fled to the Everglades and lived on roadkill for decades. There, he wages war on polluters, litterers, and poachers. His only connection to the outside world is Jim Tile, now retired from the Florida State Police. Tile served on Skink’s bodyguard detail when he lived in the governor’s mansion. The ex-Governor is considered to be dead because Tile reported his passing to the press — at his request.

Skink: No Surrender (Skink #7) by Carl Hiaasen (2014) 290 pages ★★★☆☆

A poacher, a crazed ex-Governor, a kidnapper, and two 14-year-olds

The novel opens as fourteen-year-old Richard Spence stumbles across a pit on the beach where Skink has dug in, lying in wait for a notorious poacher who steals the eggs of endangered turtles. Richard is puzzled why his cousin Malley hasn’t shown up and can’t be reached by phone as they had agreed to meet. Later it transpires that she has run away with an older man she met in a chat room. Malley is nine days younger than Richard, so this spells trouble. In fact, the older man has kidnapped her. No evidence turns up despite a statewide Amber Alert and an intensive police investigation. So Skink volunteers to find and rescue Malley. Richard tags along. Their search takes them through vast stretches of Florida’s lush beauty and exposes them to life-threatening danger on several occasions. Naturally, everything turns out fine in the end.

For a review of a Carl Hiaasen novel that I enjoyed immensely, see Reality TV, African rodents, and the roach patrol.

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