Like Carl Hiaasen’s other books, this book continues his tradition of writing ecological mysteries for young adults. This story is also set in Florida; this time in the Everglades. Wahoo Cray and his father, Mickey, run a wildlife sanctuary/zoo in their backyard. Mickey is a professional animal wrangler so when TV shows want wild animals like snakes and alligators they turn to Mickey and Wahoo to provide real animals in a safer setting.
Mickey takes a job for a reality TV show called Expedition Survival and they have their tame alligator called Alice “fight” with the show’s star. Things don’t quite go the way they are suppose to and the inept star almost drowns. However, Derek loves the “real” feeling and wants to use only “true wild” animals for the rest of the shot and so Wahoo and his father go with the film crew into the Everglades. Add to this motley mix a young girl who is running away from her abusive father, a star who thinks he is a vampire after a bat bite, and a drunken father with a gun who wants his daughter back.
This is a fun, exciting mystery set in a place that is exotic and a little creepy. This would make a great read aloud and then a kick off to some research and exploration on alligators and snakes, the Everglades, reality TV, and airboats.