Book Review: Hoot

HIAASEN SERIES

I’ve been pulling the sleek, simple, and colorful copies of the Hoot series by Carl Hiaasen off the shelves in the youth section of bookstores, for a long while. Something about them—including their presence everywhere–said “good book” to me. Perhaps it was the simple titles: Hoot, Chomp, Flush, Scat, and Skink. Perhaps it was those simple covers that I just mentioned. Or it was when a shiny award—A Newberry Honor–appeared on the cover of Hoot. Anyhow, I was happy when my son picked the series out for his next read-out-loud book. (This was like last summer; I’m still catching up with reviews).

HOOT

After all that, Hoot was a disappointment. So much so, that we don’t feel the need to read the rest of the collection of Florida-based books, even though my son is so drawn to the covers and titles. Like mother, like son.

Why was this book a disappointment, when so many people and teachers love it? It should be noted: many people claim it is well-written, deals with environmental issues, and is lough-out-loud funny. It’s ratings are consistently high. But,

Let me start with this: not one of us laughed out loud once during the reading of this book. We might have snickered here or there, but we just didn’t find it funny. Hiaasen is known for his humor writing, but I would say that Hoot is only very moderately funny. In fact, it’s not even really that satirical. Mildly, maybe. So, we can say that at least this book is not funny to everyone.

Also—and this is as much my fault as anyone’s—the book was not quite age appropriate. Officially YA, bookstores tend to lump middle grades and YA books together, so with their low page count and bubble-gum-colored covers of cute animals, I assumed these were more middle grades. I was wrong. There is swearing, which I had to edit out as I read, and just some older content. It shouldn’t be too surprising, either, when you realize Hiaasen was first an adult book author. In fact, he’s responsible, among other things, for the book Strip Tease, which led to the infamous movie Striptease, starring everybody’s least favorite Saved by the Bell character.

I didn’t find the writing to be that great either, and none of us found the plot to be that interesting. Also, we didn’t feel drawn to the characters or that we ended up getting that close to them. The depth of the novel—found in the environmental issue and in the characters who have sticky home situations (and one even homeless)—was not all what it could have been. All the deep issues ended up seeming nominal and unexplored, which could be because there are too many crammed in.

On the plus side, the book did have the kind of “kapow” ending that I love, where lots of strings weave together to create one giant, exciting scene. But after all the disappointment, I just didn’t really care too much.

I don’t know what else I can say. If you want to trust the majority of reviewers, you could give Hoot and the other Hiaasen books a try. But if you want to trust me, you’ll skip over Hoot and head straight to the other amazing YA books which are out there, which include The Giver, A Wrinkle in Time, Where the Red Fern Grows, Harry Potter… and, well, I don’t have that many other suggestions yet unless you want to get into the classics. (I’ve read a lot of bad to mediocre YA in the past few years). As my daughter ages, however, I should find more and more.

 

__________

I read Hoot, by Carl Hiaasen, from Yearling, 2005.

__________

MOVIE

HOOT MOVIEThe 2006 movie was a flop, but often I don’t mind giving a couple hours, and maybe a few dollars, to a bad movie made from a book I’ve just read. I really enjoy seeing what a director has done with the story and the characters. So, my kids and I snuggled up on pizza night and hit play on Vudu…

It was pretty much as bad as the reviews said. I tend to go with what IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes are saying, and well… the acting (with the exception of two) was pretty bad, and the story only got a little finer. The real issues were the music (sorry, Jimmy Buffet, but even you couldn’t save it from the musical score) and the editing. In fact, the cuts between scenes were laughable. It made me realize, too, why I don’t find the book “satirical,” and that’s because an incompetent cop and a bumbling construction manager are really old stories.

Also, the dad lost his part in the story, which was the first time (in the book) that I had seen an adult really take his real role in YA in a long time. So that was a bummer, too. You can probably stand to watch it, but you aren’t going to want to run out and buy it.

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