FLUSH, by Carl Hiaasen


Carl Hiaasen is a masterful storyteller. The way he strings his sentences and scenes together, you just don’t want to stop reading them. Ever. His characters (even the more minor ones) immediately pop off the page, and have a tendency to hang around long after you finish a book.

I was overjoyed when, in addition to his usual, adult-oriented output, Hiaasen began writing novels aimed at younger readers. Like his others – HOOT, SCAT, and CHOMP – FLUSH is, at base, a story about nature and the environment, pitting those who wish to preserve and protect it against those who exploit and/or damage and degrade it. The story is narrated by Noah, the son of a big-hearted but impulsive man who takes matters into his own hands when a crooked businessman parks his casino boat at his neighborhood marina. Adventure and absurdity ensue, with Noah and his little sister growing ever more entangled in their father’s mission to uncover the dirty (extremely dirty, in fact) dealings of the casino boat owner. The loose ends Hiaasen scatters throughout the first half of his book are all tied up by the end of the second – neatly, believably, and satisfyingly.

One thing I always love about Hiaasen’s books for kids – and something that goes a long way toward making his stories, despite their occasional zaniness, so believable, and his endings so satisfying – is his inclusion of adult characters, and his exploration of their wants and needs and feelings in addition to those of his younger characters. It’s good, I think, for young readers to be urged toward empathy for people the ages of their parents, teachers, and older neighbors and relatives. And the emotional layer that Hiaasen incorporates into his stories has the additional benefit of preventing them from ever getting preachy – which, in a lesser writer’s hands, they certainly could.

But even if, say, you don’t believe in global warming and every night you dump the day’s garbage out on the side of the road, you won’t be able to stop yourself from falling for Hiaasen’s characters and reading eagerly till the very end. Like all his books, FLUSH will make you think, feel, and laugh deeply. It’s a high-quality read for anyone, young or old, who simply enjoys a good story well told.

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