Plot: Wahoo’s father is an animal wrangler living in the Florida Everglades but he has been out of work since a dead iguana fell on his head. The bills are piling up so when they are offered a lucrative job with the popular reality show Expedition Survival! it is too good to turn up. But they soon come to realize that the show’s star, far from being a survivalist, is a dangerous fool. When he gets lost in the Everglades for real, the job turns deadly.
Hiaasen’s newest middle grade novel is a bit different from Hoot, Flush and Scat but it is just as funny. It starts with the following memorable sentence: “Mickey Cray had been out of work ever since a dead iguana fell from a palm tree and hit him on the head.” As you can probably tell, the humour is a bit wicked but that’s just the way I like it. 🙂 Hiaasen’s first three novels were environmental mysteries; I would sooner call this one an adventure, complete with kidnapping and wilderness survival, but Florida and its wildlife remain important characters (some highlights are Alice the alligator, Beulah the python and a very alarmed bat).
The human characters are as colourful as the animal ones. Wahoo’s father Mickey is passionate about animals, nearly fearless and has no patience for people and their stupidity. The TV star, Derek Badger, meanwhile is all ego, carelessness and stupid bravado (which gets him into many hilarious situations)… but he manages to redeem himself somewhat in the end. But Wahoo is the real star: he plays the diplomat between the quick tempered adults and is brave in a more quiet way than his father. Hiaasen also gives us another great female character in Tuna. She is smart – an amateur taxonomist – and has as much attitude as any of his heroines. Her difficult home life provides the secondary narrative of the novel: she joins Wahoo and his father on their job to escape her own abusive father. She and Wahoo develop a really touching rapport.
This was another fun read; I just flew through it, smiling constantly. I can’t wait to read Scat.