Skink: No Surrender by Carl HiaasenTeen Fiction

Richard and his cousin Malley often meet on their Florida beach at night to walk and talk–they’ve grown up together almost as brother and sister. They also use this time to look for loggerhead turtle nests so they can help wildlife conservation authorities mark it for preservation and protection.

On the night our book opens, Malley is a no-show and Richard begins to worry. After dozens of texts and calls, Malley finally replies with an implausible reason for standing Richard up. Not knowing what else to do, Richard pushes back the niggling worry and stays on the beach for a while longer.

There, through an amazing series of events that involve a fake loggerhead nest and a drinking straw, Richard meets Skink, the former (and presumed dead) governor of Florida.

When it becomes apparent to Richard that Malley has run away with someone she met online, he alerts the authorities. Amber Alerts are issued, Richard and his parents are interviewed, Malley’s parents are interviewed, security footage is gathered, hotlines are set up, and leads begin to go nowhere.

Feeling desperate, Richard heads back to the beach to find Skink. When he is finally successful, Richard helps Skink get passed police unnoticed after Skink beats up a man who tried to steal loggerhead turtle eggs (which is illegal as loggerhead are endangered).

Thus begins Richard & Skink’s amazingly Hiaasen-esque journey to find Malley and bring her home unharmed.

If you’ve never read a Carl Hiaasen book, here are some things you should know:

They’re all set in Florida. They all contain incredibly strange (yet believable) characters. They all feature really outrageous events and coincidences. They’re all pretty darned funny.

“Skink” is no different from Hiaasen’s typical, grown-up books except that his main character is a teenager. Hiaasen does a great job surrounding Richard with fully fleshed-out adults who react to his sudden road trip in typically responsible adult like ways. Richard’s mother is a lawyer who is understandably worried–threatening to call the police about his road trip with Skink. Richard wants to do the right thing by her, but also needs to do something to help find his cousin and best friend.

Hiassen also gives us plenty of strange secondary characters who are completely believable despite their strangeness. If you’ve watched any reality shows on the History Channel, you’ve seen enough to know Hiaasen isn’t being overly hyperbolic in his characterizations.

Despite the mystery of tracking down Malley and the adventure of traveling with a presumed dead ex-governor, slogging through swampland, and helping to save his cousin (who is pretty capable of saving herself), “Skink” is truly a coming of age story. Richard has a lot going on in his head and this journey helps him to identify for himself who he is and who he wants to be. Even Malley matures through this process.

Overall, “Skink” is a great choice for teens and adults alike. It will help satisfy several hours of reading for this year’s Teen Summer Challenge. It even satisfies some of the requirements for our Adult Summer Reading program.