Skink - No Surrender
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The first edition cover
|Published||2014 Alfred A. Knopf|
|Media type||Print (book)|
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.
Richard Sloan, 14, 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 turtle nests at night and 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 the 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 chat room, 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 Malley's friend, "Talbo Chock", actually belongs to a soldier killed in Afghanistan, meaning Malley's new friend is an identity thief, and probably much worse. Richard is frantic, but after Skink has dealt with the turtle egg 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 mother and stepfather into believing he is going camping with a friend.
Driving a nondescript Chevrolet Malibu provided by Skink's best friend, retired Florida 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. The police have had no luck with this clue, but during her next phone call, Malley claims to have seen an Ivory-billed woodpecker that morning. From a school science project, Richard knows the birds are classified as extinct, but only lived in one part of Florida, and Malley, who helped with the project, is telling him where she is. It is also clear, underneath her upbeat tone, that she is being held against her will and watched over 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 flattened by an oncoming truck; the skunk is saved, but the bones in Skink's right foot are crushed, leaving 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.
Skink and Richard find "Talbo Chock"'s car, abandoned, and then 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, but 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, having survived his struggle with the alligator.
Heedless of Tommy's gun, Skink delivers a brief lecture on the kidnapper'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/Talbo, but defends herself by describing the stressful arguments with her parents. Richard asks gingerly whether Tommy molested her, and she says no, he only handcuffed her at night and kissed her against her will a few times (for which she retaliated by breaking his nose).
Hiking back to the car, Richard and Malley unearth a stash of money that Skink brought with him, and buy food and first aid supplies, and also 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 are resolved to go back for Skink.
Returning to the spot on the Choctawhatchee, they find the houseboat sunk, and Skink standing on the roof, nursing a non-fatal gunshot wound - "It would have been helpful," he grumbles to Malley, " to know that he had another gun." He admits that Tommy got away. Richard advocates leaving the manhunt for the police, but Malley has been traumatized enough that she needs to see him captured herself. Skink says he can find Tommy, and they insist on going with him.
They 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 gets away in a canoe, calling out that he'll find Malley again and they'll be married one day. They have no weapons to catch him, but Richard is carrying a fishing rod, and casts the hook, snagging Tommy's shirt and yanking him into the water. A few minutes later, another alligator drifts down the river, with a bloody scrap of Tommy's clothes in its jaws.
A rescue boat appears with Jim Tile at the helm. Before it arrives, Skink says his goodbyes and slips away. While he is driving Richard and Malley home, Tile receives a call from the Walton County Sheriff that the kidnapper's body was recovered from the river. As a final cruel irony, "Tommy Chalmers" turns out to be another stolen identity, and the kidnapper's real name, identified through fingerprints, is Terwin Crossley - of all the things he told Malley, his initials were the only thing that was true.
Richard and Malley return home, and Malley and her parents agree to work at being more understanding of each other. Malley continues attending school in Florida, and, unknown to her, Richard and his family cooperate to keep watch over her, in case of another stalker. Richard does not hear from Skink again, but Jim Tile sends him a news article from Fort Myers, announcing that an anonymous benefactor has endowed a scholarship at the local college, in the name of the late Corporal Earl Talbot Chock.
Richard and Malley always look for straws poking out the sand when they go looking 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
- Skink gives Richard a copy of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.
- Richard remembers watching a news story about the 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, which prompted him to ask his father if evil really exists.
- When Richard and Malley are running for their lives from a feral boar, he reflects that much of the blame for their predicament can be put on Hernando de Soto, the Spanish conquistador who introduced pigs to North America in the 16th century.