Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Chomp (Carl Hiaasen)

Carl Hiaasen
Fiction, YA Fiction/Humor
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Wahoo Cray grew up among animals. His father, Michael Cray, is one of the best wildlife wranglers in Florida, with a small backyard zoo full of rehabilitation projects like Alice, the six-hundred-pound alligator, and Beulah, a python north of fourteen feet in length. But things have been rough for the Crays since Michael took a blow to the head; the concussion has left him unable to work for months. Wahoo's mom took a temporary job in China, teaching language skills to inept American businessmen, but that will hardly make a dent in the massive debts piling up, not to mention the daily feeding costs of the Cray critter collection.
Expedition Survival! is one of the hottest reality shows on cable. The star, Derek Badger, parachutes blindfolded into remote locations, braving wild animal attacks and living off the land... or so the viewing public believes. In truth, his stuntman makes his trademark jump. Derek spends every night in the nearest five-star hotel with a Jacuzzi, while a long-suffering production team arranges the "spontaneous" animal encounters. With his contract up for renegotiation, he needs a blockbuster show to justify the massive pay raise he's certainly entitled to - which means his crew needs to find the best wrangler in the Florida Everglades.
If the Crays hadn't needed the money, they never would've taken the job... and TV star Derek Badger would've never had an unforgettable date with reality.

REVIEW: Chomp is a fast-reading send-up of "reality" TV. From the eccentric Crays to the egotistical Derek, from the surly airboat captain Link to Derek's long-suffering producer Raven Stark, a host of memorable, fun characters flood the pages, interacting in unexpected ways. While superficially whimsical, even slapstick at times, there's some deeper stuff going on here, especially in the subplot with Wahoo's not-girlfriend Tuna and her abusive drunkard of a father (who live, or rather exist, in a trailer in the Walmart parking lot, for the free electricity and water.) Hiaasen also managed the tricky feat of including adults in a Young Adult title who were not deliberately dumbed down; everyone, minor or adult, plays on a fairly level field with their peculiarities and problems, with none deliberately outshining the others. The story clips along at a fair pace, often amusing and fairly unpredictable, ratcheting up to a suitably wild finale. It was just a fun read all around.

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