Saturday, August 18, 2012

Audiobook Review: Chomp by Carl Hiaasen, Narrated by James Van Der Beek

Publisher: Random House Audio/Listening Library/Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 27th, 2012

Wahoo Cray lives in a zoo. His father is an animal wrangler, so he's grown up with all manner of gators, snakes, parrots, rats, monkeys, snappers, and more in his backyard. The critters he can handle.  His father is the unpredictable one. 

When his dad takes a job with a reality TV show called "Expedition Survival!", Wahoo figures he'll have to do a bit of wrangling himself—to keep his dad from killing Derek Badger, the show's boneheaded star, before the shoot is over. But the job keeps getting more complicated. Derek Badger seems to actually believe his PR and insists on using wild animals for his stunts. And Wahoo's acquired a shadow named Tuna—a girl who's sporting a shiner courtesy of her old man and needs a place to hide out. 

They've only been on location in the Everglades for a day before Derek gets bitten by a bat and goes missing in a storm. Search parties head out and promptly get lost themselves. And then Tuna's dad shows up with a gun . . .

It's anyone's guess who will actually survive "Expedition Survival". . . 
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

With grand plans of doing a joint guest review, my husband actually buddy-read this with our (then) ten year old daughter in late 2011.  When he started animatedly telling me about it, gushing about the humor and wit, I told him that he didn't have to do the review... He got me excited for it, and being the selfish girl that I am, I wanted to review it myself.  But, as it usually does, time slipped by and I got more and more backed up on my review reading.  Well, imagine my excitement when I found Chomp in Audible's library (AND that it was read by Mr. Dawson's Creek himself, James Van Der Beek!)!  I promptly downloaded it and gave it a listen.

I am a fan of Carl Hiaasen.  Back in the day when I read books written for adults, I read quite a few of his adult novels (Skinny Dip, Sick Puppy, Nature Girl, Skin Tight, Star Island, etc.).  I've also read all of his MG novels as well (Flush, Hoot, Scat).  Between the facts I am already a fan, and that they show up on just about every summer reading list known to man, reading them was really a no-brainer.  It just stands to reason that I would like Chomp, right?  Right.  I did like it.  It was typical Carl Hiaasen; great characters, enticing plot and pacing, funny, adventurous, well-researched and informational, with smatterings of intelligent sarcasm throughout.  Just like every other book I've read by him, it takes place in Florida, and is heavily laced with eco-speak.  It is obvious that Mr. Hiaasen cares tremendously about our natural world, particularly the piece of it that we call Florida (and he calls home).  As a avid bird-nerd and conservationist myself, I applaud him for lacing his books with thought-provoking dialogue related to the damage we do, as humans, to our environment.  If his books open the eyes of even a small percentage of the people who read them to these facts, he has done a great service to our planet, and has entertained the masses at the same time!  Bravo!

But enough about my general feelings toward Carl Hiaasen, and on to this particular book...  I liked Chomp.  It wasn't perfect, and it wasn't my favorite of his books, but I probably laughed most reading this one.  I think the characters, or rather (for the most part), the caricatures, were the best part of the book.  There were too many great ones to list here, but each one was done so well, even the most minor of them.  The characterizations were spot-on; from the ratings-obsessed Hollywood producer, to the over-indulged TV star, to the bubba Everglades airboat tour guide, to the trailer-trash drunk, each added an element of entertainment and enjoyment to the story.  I don't know if everyone will get the same vibe off the characters that I did because I'm a bit biased.  I'm sure part of my enjoyment came from having lived in Florida for four years, and the fact that I encountered some of the latter type regularly.  For me, they were what made this story great.   

Told mostly from the POV of Wahoo Cray (How's that for a name? And yes, that's his REAL name!), Chomp takes us on a crazy adventure that takes us deep into the Florida Everglades, with a cast of characters that doesn't get any more bizarre.  Wahoo is great, and probably the most level headed and "adult" of the entire bunch.  He's the son of a renowned animal wrangler, and although his dad, Mickey, is great with the animals, he's rather flaky about the other facts of life.  When Wahoo's dad is hired by the TV show, Expedition Survival, to do a show in the Everglades, the adventures kick off and just keep getting nuttier.  The star of the show, Derek Badger, is a real piece of work.  He is supposed to be a cross between Steve Irwin and Bear Grylls, but he is really anything but.  The world sees him is this hard-core survivalist, but he is actually a pampered, spoiled, Hollywood creation (and former Irish Folk Dancer), who couldn't survive the county park without help.  He is the source of a great number of the laughs, and for me, played a huge part in making this story as good as it was. Added to Derek and his drama, was Wahoo's friend, Tuna, who they accidentally rescued from her abusive father (and the trailer they lived in, in the local Walmart parking lot).   While her whole situation added a bit of austerity to the story, it also provided a bunch of laughs as well, taking the story in a rather unexpected direction.  Along with the laughs, I really enjoyed being a casual observer to both the way Wahoo matured throughout the book, and how his sweet, unexpected relationship with Tuna evolved.  Carl Hiaasen wrote these parts so well, in in such a way that they didn't get lost beneath the laughs and adventure, and I think that takes a lot of talent.

As for the audio experience, I thought James Van Der Beek did a great job with it.  I thought his voice added a nice touch, breathing life into Wahoo's character, in particular.  I think I liked this book better this way, than I would have if I had just read the text version.  If you are considering reading this book, and enjoy audiobooks, you should definitely give this one a shot.

Overall, I think this was a good story.  Like I mentioned before, it wasn't my favorite by Carl Hiaasen, but it was well worth the listen/read.  This would be a great addition to any upper elementary or middle school classroom/library.  This book has appeal for not only the MG readers it was written for, but teens and adults as well.  In fact, I think my husband loved it even more than my daughter did.  It would be a great choice as a read-aloud for parents who still read to their older kids because both would enjoy it.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  Carl Hiaasen's MG books are not squeaky clean.  There are usually a few swears and almost always a bit of violence, although none of it graphic or gratuitous.  This book was no different.  Considering this, I think Chomp is appropriate for the average 4th grader and up.  (Ages 9+)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for visiting my blog! I adore comments since they make me feel special and loved, just please don't spam me. I'm not interested in vacation offers, millions of dollars from Nigeria, or anything not book related!

Also, this is an award-free blog. As flattered as I am, I just don't have time. I'm happy if I have time to post all of my reviews on time, and am a momma of three to boot, but I appreciate the thoughts! XO