by Carl Hiaasen
MG/YA fiction. 263 pp.
from the flap copy:
Noah's dad has a little problem with anger control. He tried to stop the Coral Queen casino boat's illegal dumping . . . by sinking the boat.
But his bold protest fizzles: Within days the casino is back in business, and Noah's dad is behind bars and out of action.
Now Noah is determined to succeed where his father failed. But even though pumping raw sewage into the waters of the Florida Keys is both gross and against the law, turns out it's near impossible to catch the flusher--especially when he's already bamboozled the prosecutors, the local press, and even the Coast Guard.
I was first introduced to Hiaasen a few years ago just prior to the announcement of the 2003 Newbery Awards. This was the year when the Newbery essentially became a lifetime achievement award when a very mediocre (if you could even call it that) book, Crispin: The Cross of Lead (and let's hope and pray the colon doesn't mean there's a sequel), by a good author won the award and beat out three phenomenal books: The House of the Scorpion, A Corner of the Universe, and Hoot.
Anyway, I loved Hoot. I admit that I approached it skeptically; I cautiously approach any mainstream adult author who suddenly decides to write for children. But Hiaasen has a wonderful voice. He brings in the quirkiness of his writing and characters from his national books and plays them out just right in children's. And he tells a good story. Sure, it may come across a bit heavy-handed in its Business Is Bad and Environmentalism Is Good morality. But what I thought shined through most and what I loved most was the ethical protagonist.
As a rule in children's literature, you must get rid of the parents and adult influences. (It's okay to keep old people around; grandparently figures are great.) This is done so that the child protagonist can be empowered to resolve the book's conflict on his or her own. However, the drawback is that most children solve their problems by breaking rules. They get a little slap on the wrist--maybe--but kudos to them for resolving the issue.
Hiaasen didn't do that in Hoot, and he doesn't do that in Flush either. In fact, in Flush, it's even more apparent how law-abiding Noah is. The book opens with him visiting his father, who's in jail for sinking the casino boat. To his father's credit, he doesn't deny that he did it; he views it as an act of civil disobedience. But the lesson here is clear: Breaking the law is wrong, regardless of the goodness of your intentions.
It's after his father really backs off and concedes defeat in the matter (having to pay retribution for the sunken boat and barely escaping a divorce) that Noah realizes that something does have to be done. So Noah and his younger sister, Abbey, take matters into their own hands. As far as rule-breaking goes, Noah does trespass onto the boat, but he does so only when he realizes they only have one adult accomplice and she doesn't have the time to fully carry out the plan. But it's a brilliant plan.
Anyway, I give two thumbs way up to this book. I loved it. And it's a nice, refreshing break from Weird Award-Winning Novels. (I'm in the middle of this year's Printz--oy, nossa.)
So read this book. Now. You know you want to. So just do it already.