Book Review of “Chomp” by Carl Hiaasen: When You Read a Book You Didn’t Know Was Meant For Teens and Laugh Out Loud - Jenn Ingram
Type: Young Adult, Adventure
Audience age: Ages 11-17
Themes: Animals, Adventure Environment, Friendship, Child abuse, Responsibility, Finances
It’s common to come across free book libraries scattered around our neighborhood. It’s Venice Beach in the spring of 2023. Near my house is a little book shelf on a walk street. I bring books to the free library during my morning walk with my dog, Red Rider. Sometimes, I’ll pick a book up. On this particular morning, the library shelf was almost bare. Yet, there was one book that caught my eye. There was a brand new-looking book by an author I had read before and knew I liked. I snapped it up and eagerly took it home.
It was a hardcover book called “Chomp” by Carl Hiaasen, who is an American journalist turned novelist. I had read “Basket Case,” a mystery tale for adults. Little did I know, this was his fourth book in a series for teens. Hiaasen is known for putting his characters in a Florida location and including environmental themes. I am a fan of both of those things. I immediately began reading the book.
“Chomp” is a story about a kid named Wahoo, “whose unusual name matches his unconventional life.” Suddenly, he finds himself in a position of responsibility when the family is doing everything they can to stay financially afloat. In the scenario, his mother has felt it necessary to take a job far away from home for two months to help pay the bills while his dad continues to recover from a serious injury, and hasn’t been able to work. I could relate to that! I was recently offered a job out of my home state and I would prefer to stay near my family, but I too, need to pay the bills. I continued to read.
Escapades unfold when a reality TV show comes calling and the production wants to use Wahoo’s dad’s services as a professional animal wrangler. Knowing the family needs the money, Wahoo and his dad Mickey take the television job (Oddly my job offer is in television also!)... despite knowing Mickey’s injuries could pose a problem. Things take a turn for the dramatic when Mickey and Wahoo’s new friend Tuna agree to go on location with the reality show “Expedition Survival!” They soon learn that the show’s colorful and egotistical star, Derek Badger, has completely unrealistic expectations about what’s possible when working with wild animals. Uh oh.
The book is a lot of fun because of its creative characters and unusual locations. It’s entertaining to see these young people navigate the world of adults and animals in extraordinary situations. It’s the type of book you continue to read each day until the end.
Wahoo is a solid lead character. He’s helping his dad, he’s helping his friend Tuna, he’s trying to protect his mom and the animals. Mickey’s failings due to being hit on the head by an iguana signifies how all of us are vulnerable to unexpected challenges and how he perseveres in adversity. Tuna is an important addition, adding some themes of child endangerment into the fold. It’s a sizable book. You want to soak in each word, and not just skim over it. I carried the book around with me and read it when I had free time. It took me about a week to finish.
The characters feel real and relatable, and it’s a very engaging book. It’s also helpful for middle schoolers to realize that things on television might not always be what they appear to be. The book will make you laugh out loud with the antics getting more elaborate throughout. I recommend it for children and adults alike.
*Definition of a walk street is a path with houses on either side without a road or room for cars
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