Friday, 4 December 2009

Scat by Carl Hiaasen


October 2009, Orion Children's Books
355 pages, Hardback
Review Copy

Children's, thriller

Cushions: 3
Daggers: 1
Tears: 1
Yunaleska's recommended rating:5 hearts

When I first read the cover, I thought the title meant 'shoo, go away cat'. Only through reading it did I remember the other meaning of scat. Both meanings could be used for the book.

Admittedly it was the cat on the cover which caught my attention first -it's not shown here but the barcode is really clever because above the bar code itself is the cat - in barcode form!

Nick and Marta have been friends for a while, which is more than can be said for fellow classmate Smokey who broke and ate a mean (the teacher picks on children unnecessarily) teacher's pencil. I feel the humour of the book is set up well in the following quote:

page 11: "I'm so glad there's no lesson tomorrow," she said. "I can't deal with it - she's a witch and he's a total moron."

Marta is in some ways like me, which had me relate easier to her. Nick is the predominant protagonist: the story follows what happens when the mean teacher Mrs Starch goes missing after a trip to a dangerous swamp in Florida. Field trips will never be the same for Nick and Marta.

If only it were as simple as the teacher being murdered or gobbled up by the panther roaming lose. There would have been no showdown with the prospectors who work illegally to get money, the truth of the teacher's disappearance (which I couldn't guess at all). I wouldn't have sat in my chair, getting closer to the seat's edge as Nick and Marta crept around places they shouldn't be in, bumping into other intruders who they presume didn't belong there.

In some ways - all good ones - the book reminded me a little of Roald Dahl's Mathilda. Thankfully Nick's parents are nice ones! Nick has a lot to deal with outside of the goings on at school - his father has returned from Iraq with a life-changing injury. I liked how this issue of parents in the army was dealt with: Nick finds a touching way to deal with his father's injury.IT seems to strengthen the father and son relationship, rather than crumble it.

Another big theme is that appearances can be deceiving. There are always reasons for peoples' behaviour. Smokey may appear to be a little arsonist, but there is more going on in his life than just starting fires. No one is immune from character development in the story - apart from the prospectors who don't learn their lesson.

The third main theme is conservation. Scat clearly tells the need for conserving our planet, what happens when humans become greedy in the quest for wealth, and how it affects the animals.

The themes are not shoved down the reader's throat - they are woven into the story deftly. If I wasn't a book reviewer, I would have clocked what the themes were, but not really thought about them in depth.

I laughed a lot in this book: even at points of high peril humour could be found. It does have thriller elements, but isn't what I would term a pure thriller (as in action in every paragraph). That doesn't detract from the tale - there's enough suspense and plot twists to satisfy most readers.

Carl Hiaasen writes in other genres - check out his website.

Liked this? Try Z.Rex by Steve Cole

4 comments:

GMR said...

Interesting review....it's great to hear that the story had multiple themes as well as lessons, but that they are more there for the reader to discover than for them to be preached too. It certainly makes for a larger appeal to a broader audience. Thanks for sharing....and happy reading!

Rose Works Jewelry said...

Sounds like a good read :)

Chicklish said...

Great review. It sounds like a great story with some very interesting depth.

Yunaleska said...

Thank you! I like themes :)