Chomp is one of those surprise reads that I picked up mainly because of the attention it received when it was released and the eye-catching cover that just draws the passerby in to at least have a look. I had never read any of Carl Hiaasen's work, though now I've learned that he not only writes for my local paper, but his books take place right here in Florida. I've also learned that he can make me laugh out loud while reading, which means I'll be picking up more of his books quite soon.
Chomp is about Wahoo Cray and his father Mickey, pro wildlife wranglers that get hired on to work with a survivalist TV show. As it turns out, though, the star of the show is a total sham and not only rejects using the safe, tame animals in Mickey's backyard, but wants to go out to the Everglades for a show out in the wild. Against their better judgement, they trek out to the Everglades.
The first thing that jumped at me while reading is that the setting is most definitely, no doubt about it, Miami/South Florida. There are parts of the book where a person familiar with the landscape would get a joke or reference better than the average reader, but at the same time the average non-Floridian reader isn't left out. Hiaasen does a good job of illustrating the landscape, and all the landmarks he mentions are places which are easily looked up for reference.
Wahoo and Mikey are lovable characters and easy to relate to. Mickey could be anyone's stubborn father, and Wahoo could be anyone's thoughtful and responsible brother. Hiaasen even tossed in a super smart (but troubled) girl, Tuna, to improve the dynamic all around. Derek Badger, the fake survivalist and star of the show Expedition Survival! is a riot, though you might roll your eyes at him a few times. His actions were so ridiculous as to be predictable, but given that the book was mostly in Wahoo's perspective, things were painted in a generally funny light.
The overall tone of the book is light, though things do get a bit dramatic toward the end due to a crazy drunk man with a gun threatening the saftey of our friends in the Everglades. Even that had its purpose though, and brings an important issue to light that kids reading the book should absolutely be aware of (domestic violence/abuse). Actually, there are a lot of things about the book that can be educational for kids and adults alike. I learned a few things here and there about my own local wildlife I hadn't been aware of, too.
The age suggestion for Chomp is 10 and above, which sounds just about right. I'd recommend it to young readers and adults alike. For an older reader, it'll be a quick but fun interlude to your reading backlog. The book does go a bit over-the-top and the plot isn't anything groundbreaking, but it's nonetheless fun. If you can get past unbelievably ridiculous situations (mostly surrounding the idiot "survivalist" Derek Badger, or some cliché lines from Tuna's lunatic father), then you'll enjoy your time with Chomp.