The International Writers Magazine: Review
Skink No Surrender is billed as being his first YA novel, but to be honest it reads pretty much like SCAT which is good, but the topic – a young girl going missing with a guy she met on-line is definitely more adult.
Malley is 14 and has run off with some guy who calls himself Talbo Chock (which should have been a warning sign if ever there was one) rather than go to boarding school in New Hampshire. I can see her point. Swapping the warm sun for New Hampshire winters wouldn’t be my choice either. Her best pal and cousin Richard is puzzled she didn’t say goodbye and doesn’t believe what she had told her parents that she has to fly up to New Hampshire a few days early for orientation at the school or something. Malley has form and has run away before. Richard and Malley have been close ever since they were kids and he resents her leaving without saying goodbye.
It’s Richard who calls the Twigg Academy in New Hampshire and discovers the truth and although Malley calls him up and tries to blackmail him into not telling her parents – he tells his Ma, who tells her parents that she’s gone crazy and run off with a guy.
Richard has no idea what to do as he walks on the beach and that’s where he meets this dead-beat old guy under strange circumstances. Turns out it is Skink (who has featured in several Hiaasen adult stories) – which according to his trusty smartphone was once Governor of Florida! Even worse, it reveals Talbo Chock is dead!! So who is Malley really with?
So begins the weirdest friendship between Richard (14) and Skink who decides that they’re going to rescue his cousin Malley.
Of course being a Hiaasen novel we’ve got a lot of bird watching and turtle caring to do along the way and never mess with an alligator - there’s a lot of gators in those swamps.
Malley isn’t the cutest, nicest or most sensible 14 year old girl you ever met, but Richard is resolute and is determined to see it through. Along the way they meet some very unreliable and colourful characters and Skink - or what is left of him, is battle hardened to say the least.
This is fun, with a lot of pace and wildlife. Skink No Surrender avoids being too grim or too real, in favour of an exciting adventure of a boy growing up and taking on responsibility for the first time in his life to save a girl, who might not actually want saving.
© Sam Hawksmoor September 2014
author of The Heaviness and other stories
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