Skink - No Surrender

Skink - No Surrender is a young adult novel by Carl Hiaasen, published on September 23, 2014. It is described as Hiaasen's first young adult novel. He has authored four previous novels for "young" readers. Like all of his novels, it is set in Hiaasen's native Florida.

Skink - No Surrender
Skink - No Surrender cover 1
The first edition cover
Author Carl Hiaasen
Country United States
Language English
Genre adventure comedy
Published 2014 Alfred A. Knopf
Media type Print (book)
ISBN 978-0-375-87051-4

Plot

Richard Sloan is worried when his cousin and best friend, Malley, fails to meet him for their regular nightly exploration of Loggerhead Beach, scouting for turtle nests. Noticing a soda straw poking out of such a nest, Richard pulls it up and is surprised when a homeless man, "Skink", bursts out of the sand and complains about Richard ruining his trap. Skink explains that a poacher has been stealing eggs from the nests at night; Skink has been lying in wait to "have a chat" with him. Richard apologizes and runs off.

Richard becomes even more worried when Malley's parents tell him she has left Florida for early orientation at a boarding school they enrolled her in, yet when Richard calls the school, its secretary tells him there is no such event. When Malley calls Richard, she admits that she has run away from home with a friend she met in an online chatroom, and warns Richard not to tell the truth to her parents. Skink tells him, in no uncertain terms, to reveal the truth.

Malley's parents are alarmed, even more so when the police discover that the name of her friend, "Talbo Chock", actually belongs to a soldier killed in Afghanistan, meaning this new friend is an identity thief or worse. Richard is frantic, but after Skink has dealt with the poacher, he announces that his next "project" is to track Malley down and bring her home safe, and he invites Richard to come along. Since the police have had no success in tracing Malley's whereabouts, Richard agrees, tricking his parents into believing he is going camping with a friend.

Driving a nondescript Chevrolet Malibu provided by Skink's best friend, retired Highway Patrolman Jim Tile, Skink heads toward the Florida Panhandle. Malley's last phone call had featured what sounded like a drawbridge in the background, but police have had no luck with this clue. During her next phone call, Malley claims to have seen an Ivory-billed woodpecker, causing Richard to realize that she is telling him the specific region in Florida where she is. It is clear, underneath her upbeat tone, that she is being held against her will by "Talbo Chock".

While they are camping one night, Skink is badly injured when he dashes into the road to save a baby skunk from being hit by a truck; the skunk is saved, but Skink's injuries leave him unable to drive. Though Richard is underage, Skink coaches him to drive the car, and Tile, who has been shadowing them, provides a counterfeit license in Richard's name. The duo find "Talbo Chock"'s abandoned car and track him and Malley to a houseboat moored in the Choctawhatchee River. Unfortunately, they are separated when Skink jumps into the river to wrestle an alligator that purloined their dinner fish.

Feeling he has no choice but to go alone, Richard creeps onto the houseboat and finds Malley alive. However, he is then taken prisoner by her abductor, Tommy Chalmers a.k.a. Talbo Chock, brandishing a loaded revolver. To everyone's surprise, Skink appears on the boat and delivers a brief lecture on Tommy's "loathsome act[s]" - stealing the identity of a dead soldier, abducting Malley, and taking a potshot at an endangered heron that was bothering him. Skink seizes Tommy and throws his gun overboard while shoving Richard and Malley into the water.

Richard and Malley make their way to the river bank. Malley admits how stupid she was to run away with Tommy, but defends herself by describing tensions with her parents and denies that Tommy molested her. Hiking back to the car, the kids unearth a stash of money that Skink brought with him, which they use to purchase essentials and rent a small skiff. Malley calls her parents to tell them she's all right but makes up an excuse that will allow them an extra day to return home. Both of them resolve to go back for Skink.

The duo return to find the houseboat sunk and Skink standing on the roof, having been non-fatally shot by Tommy with a second gun before he got away. Richard advocates leaving the manhunt for the police, but Malley insists on seeing him captured herself. The trio find Tommy hiding in a tree, half-deranged from fever and exhaustion, but still clutching his second gun. He offers to let Skink and Richard go if Malley comes with him. She pretends to agree, then sucker-punches him. Skink disarms him, but he tries to flee in a canoe. Richard uses a fishing rod to snag Tommy's shirt and yank him into the water, where he is eaten by an alligator.

Before Jim arrives with a rescue boat, Skink says his goodbyes and slips away. Jim receives a call from the Walton County Sheriff that Tommy's body has been recovered. "Tommy" turns out to be another stolen identity, and the kidnapper's real name, identified through fingerprints, is Terwin Crossley. Back home, Malley and her parents agree to work at resolving their issues. Richard does not hear from Skink again, but Jim sends him a news article about an anonymous benefactor who has endowed a scholarship at the local college in Chock's name. Richard and Malley now look for straws poking out the sand when look for turtles.

References to Hiaasen's Other Works

  • Skink, a.k.a. Clinton Tyree, is a recurring character in Hiaasen's novels, who first appeared in Double Whammy.
  • There are two references to the characters and events of Sick Puppy:
    • After Skink retaliates against a litterbug, he mentions a similar prank played by a friend (Twilly Spree) who emptied an entire garbage truck into a litterbug's BMW convertible;
    • Skink mentions that his glass eye originally came from a stuffed bear, and Skink acquired it during a "non-social visit" to the house of a "fool who fancied himself a big game hunter" (Palmer Stoat).

References to Actual History, Science, and Current Events

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