by Carl Hiassen
Knopf, September, 2002.
Hardcover, 304 pages.
Ages 10 and up
In his first novel for young adults, Carl Hessian introduces us to Roy Eberhart, who is the new student at Trace Middle School. Since his father works for the federal government and is transferred often, Roy knows what it is like to be the new kid in school. In the middle of having his head shoved against the school bus window by the local bully, Roy notices a mysterious barefoot running boy. Still in the grip of the bully, Roy lets go with a backward punch which lands on something soft and results in the bully, Dana Mathiesen, releasing his grip. Jumping off the school bus, Roy gives chase, but loses the boy as he runs across a golf course. Roy just barely hears the "thwack" sound of the golf ball before he feels the impact of a golf ball on his head. Finally arriving at school, Roy learns that he has broken the nose of the school bully and will be suspended from riding the bus for two weeks. Roy is secretly elated, because that means no more bullying and he is now free to pursue the mystery boy who wears no shoes and clearly does not attend school.
Within a few short chapters the reader is introduced to a cast of comical but believable characters: from the tall blond and belligerent Beatrice Leep who is a major soccer jock to officer Delinko who dreams of becoming a detective if he can just solve a vandalism crime at the job site for a new Mother Paula's All-American Pancake House. Roy Eberhart is a normal middle-school boy with loving, but perplexed, parents. They are the normal family that has settled into a very strange place called Coconut Cove in the state of Florida. Mr. Hiaasen turns a journalist's satirical eye on the human failings of politicians, mid-management types, unknown movie stars, school administrators, and just plain citizens, with amusing results. Any teen will greatly enjoy the fun poked at these types.
The real theme of Hoot is how powerless teens can confront the establishment and win something as important as saving an endangered species from extinction. Doing the right thing is always difficult, and it is particularly difficult for teens who may also be trying to survive dysfunctional families, while facing the momentous problems of becoming adults. Although Hoot is liberally spiced with the vulgar vernacular of young pubescent males, it nevertheless keeps its basic human values and teaches a great deal about outmaneuvering the powerful, the ignorant and the brutal.
-Sarah Reaves White
Hoot is available for purchase on Amazon.com
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This review was published in the December-January, 2003 of The Internet Writing Journal.
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