If you’re looking for a quirky read that’s different than any other YA you’ve read this summer, then pick up Skink–No Surrender, which is one of Carl Hiaasen’s books for young readers. Featuring Skink, a memorable character from his adult fiction, this book is equal parts mystery, road-trip fiasco, and action-packed thriller. If you like the wacky crimes and corruption of Elmore Leonard’s work, then you’ll love this story of Richard and his quest to find his cousin, Malley. While Richard narrates the story, the true hero and heart of this novel is Skink, a ragged, possibly crazy, one-eyed ex-governor who hates turtle egg poachers and polluters—and makes it his mission to help Richard track down Malley.
As a reader, I enjoyed the twists and turns of this story, but as a writer, I was blown away by the quirks and oddities of Skink, who is written with a descriptive flair that’s deceptively simple on the surface, but incredibly difficult to actually pull off. You won’t find stereotypes here, just characters that are often marginally criminal, eccentric, and make questionable decisions, yet still make you want to root for them. As another character, Hiaasen features his beloved Florida as the setting for Skink–No Surrender. The Everglades atmosphere is rich and tangible, and is a stunning example of using setting to make your novel three-dimensional. I highly recommend this novel to all writers to strengthen you characterization and setting skills.