Friday, June 17, 2016

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen, 2012

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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". . . .

(290 pages)

I got a copy of this book through Barnes & Noble's summer reading program, basically because it was the only option that looked semi-decent and wasn't already snapped up by my siblings.

And I'm very glad I did get Chomp, because it is awesome.

Seriously, it's got so much going on and is so hilarious - but so deep at the same time. Wahoo's friend Tuna is dealing with some very serious stuff when it comes to her father, and I love to see how Wahoo and his father leap to do everything they can to keep her safe. It's also nice to see how absolutely horrified they both are at the thought that anyone could ever treat his daughter so poorly, and how Wahoo tries so hard to be there for Tuna. It's really sweet to watch the two of them interact, too - they're totally two peas in a pod, and even though there's a grand total of zero romance in the entire book (unless you count adults joking about how two kids named after fish just have to belong together) it's really obvious that Tuna and Wahoo simply belong together. I don't know if I necessarily want a sequel that brings romance in to make things official, but I'm totally envisioning those two being, at the very least, best friends for a very long time.

Besides Tuna and Wahoo, the rest of the characters are also rich and striking as well. Derek is such an idiot it's hilarious to watch him bumbling around. About halfway through he gets lost after being bitten by a bat, and he literally convinces himself that he's turning into a vampire. A vampire. I couldn't make this stuff up. There's also Wahoo's dad, the pig-headed animal wrangler who cares about animals more than anything - except for Wahoo and his mom, of course. Seeing him clash horns with the TV people over what they could and couldn't do with the animals was awesome, especially because he usually won the day by using his knowledge about animals to manipulate Derek into looking like an idiot (or, well, like even more of an idiot - on film).

Honestly, I don't know what else to say. I guess I should have jumped on the Carl Hiaasen bandwagon sooner. This is the only one of his books I've ever read, but I'm going to fix that soon - when I get back from the summer vacation I'm on right now, I'm going to binge-read the rest of his books. If you've read anything else by him, let me know in the comments which one I should start with!

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