Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Chomp by Carl Hiassen

Wahoo has a somewhat nontraditional lifestyle, the fact that he lives in a zoo is a major factor and his father Mickey definitely tips that scales into weird. After his father gets hit on the head by a frozen iguana, it's up to Wahoo and his mother to make ends meet. This desperation leads Wahoo to accept a TV offer for Expedition Survival. They've contacted Wahoo and his father to set up scenes with tame animals in controlled environments, which should be an easy job with a big pay off.

Little does Wahoo know that the production company is going to involve more complications than first thought, mostly because of the star Derek Badger's ridiculous expectations of his own abilities. Added to the company is Tuna, a schoolmate of Wahoo's who has runaway from her abusive father. An abusive father with a gun.

I would first like to say that I listened to this on audiobook, and it's read by James Van Der Beek. That's right Dawson was reading the book, and he did a marvelous job. His portrayal of Derek Badger was fantastic, but he really made Mickey Cray become someone I wanted to get to know. It was crazy good.

I'll be honest and say that I haven't ever read any of Carl Hiaasen's books before this. First impression? He's incredibly funny, with a lovely grasp of the depth of emotions that children can latch on to. I think it's easy to make middle grade books rather shallow in the emotion department, but Hiaasen definitely touches on darker themes that are engaging and thought-provoking. I especially liked his view of Derek Badger and the corporate machine of television. Not to say that this was a complete discourse on the corruptness of media or anything like that, it just made suggestions that added to the depth and tone of the story.
The main plot line of Expedition Survival coming into Mickey and Wahoo's animal reserve and essentially tearing everything apart was delightful, over the top, and hilarious. I especially loved Mickey's response to Derek, his resigned knowledge that things would inevitably go badly. Derek's bull-headed decision making, and the thought process behind these decisions, that ultimately put his life in danger over and over were extremely well done. How could I not giggle on my way to and from work when I got to hear about Derek's tongue being bitten by a wild bat that left him with an infected tongue and delusions of vampirism?

While I keep mentioning the adult characters, Wahoo was also a well written character. He's a bit hard to call a child when most of the book his is put into the decision-making role and taking care of his father. It put a very interesting spin on the entire outlook of the book. Wahoo is obviously wise beyond his years, and obviously should not have to be put into this position but you feel for him. You want Wahoo to be allowed to be a child, and still support him in this adult undertaking of making sure his family is able to survive. He is endearing and sympathetic, though he doesn't really get the laughs that everyone else does.

Let me tell you about my one little quibble: the Tuna storyline. I liked Tuna as a character and I was interested in the aspects of her personal growth, but I wasn't sure if it was necessary for the story. It seemed like an addition that made the ending a bit farcical. So many bad things happen at the end that Tuna's alcoholic father showing up with a gun just made me shake my head. And not in a good way. It was an interesting idea, but I didn't think it made for a great addition to the story. If it hadn't been a part of Chomp I wouldn't have missed it wouldn't be making the comment that it made the plot seem a bit fatty. You know?

Anyway, I would highly recommend the audio book, James Van Der Beek does a spectacular job and this book was quite hysterical. Awesome.

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