BOOKS: 'Chomp' provides Hiaasen's trademark dark humorWahoo Cray’s life is not ordinary. He and his family live near the Everglades where they raise wildlife for television shows and documentaries.
By: Jean Patrick, Republic Book Columnist
Wahoo Cray’s life is not ordinary. He and his family live near the Everglades where they raise wildlife for television shows and documentaries.
But when a 7-and-a half-pound frozen iguana falls out of a tree and hits Wahoo’s dad on the head, the family business suffers. Money is scarce until the crew from the cable show “Expedition Survival!” arrives.
“Chomp,” by bestselling author Carl Hiaasen, appears to be the comic story of obnoxious television star Derek Badger (a shameless Steve Irwin copycat) and Alice, a 12-foot-long alligator who is part of Wahoo’s family.
But the plot takes a dark twist.
Just when Wahoo and his dad are leaving for the Everglades with the television crew, they run into Tuna, a girl from Wahoo’s class who needs a ride to “anywhere.” As it turns out, she lives in the Walmart parking lot in an old RV with a dad who drinks and beats her.
So Wahoo and his dad do what they must — they take Tuna with them to the Everglades. But Tuna’s dad tracks her down and threatens everyone in his path with his .38 revolver.
This kind of a plot — complete with bad guys, quirky characters and the environment — is typical of Hiaasen.
But in “Chomp,” Hiaasen revels in extremes. The danger that Tuna’s dad offers is no joke. In fact he shoots an airboat driver in the back, and then shoots Wahoo’s dad in the toe. Meanwhile, Derek Badger (who steals an airboat after being bitten in the tongue by a Florida mastiff bat when he was trying to eat it) is convinced that he is turning into a vampire.
As a result, the action is intense, occasionally madcap, and emotionally imbalanced. However, there is heart to the book. Upon careful reading, you’ll see that several characters are willing to risk their lives for each other. As for Wahoo? He’s definitely one of them.
Hiaasen, who was born, raised and still lives in Florida, is the author of several books for adults and young readers, including “Hoot,” an ecological mystery.