Skink -- No Surrender

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Skink -- No Surrender Book Poster Image
Teens join bizarre, one-eyed vigilante in wacky adventure.

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age 11+
Based on 9 reviews

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

There's a strong environmental theme here, and Richard often refers to Rachel Carson's germinal book Silent Spring. Many readers will pick up a lot of detail about Florida wildlife, from the (probably) extinct ivory-billed woodpecker to the nesting habits of sea turtles. Skink in particular is full of off-the-cuff literary and philosophical references. For example, in the midst of an incident with an alligator, he quotes 18th-century philosopher and writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Positive Messages

There's environmental cheerleading, clearly driven by an underlying, awestruck love of nature and a deep affection for Florida's plants and animals in particular. There also are strong messages of family, friendship, loyalty, resourcefulness, bravery -- and learning to deal with things not being quite what they seem, whether it's your Internet boyfriend turning out to be a lowlife or the person you assume will rip you off turning out to be honest.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Title character Skink lives by his own rules, but he's driven by honor and high principles. Teen protagonists Richard and Malley don't always behave wisely or well: Willful Malley quickly lands herself in trouble lying to her parents, which escalates into a road trip with a guy she's never met; she holds over Richard a shoplifting incident from his past to make him do her bidding; and both of them lie to their parents, especially at the beginning of the story. But when things go bad, the bond between them is stronger than thugs, alligators, guns, poachers, and bad weather. A number of adult characters are dangerous creeps, but others, notably the kids' parents, are loving and dependable. 


In the past, Richard's father died in what everyone agrees was a really stupid skateboarding accident wherein he didn't look where he was going. Over the course of Skink: No Surrender, a kidnapping, shootings, beatings, and death by alligator befall assorted characters, who often give as good as they get. Malley is kidnapped by her Internet "soulmate" but wards off his advances, including by punching him in the nose. The abductor keeps talking about their fantasy wedding on the beach -- while she’s handcuffed.​


Richard, who's involved in protecting sea turtle nests, describes the practice of stealing turtle eggs for "romantic ingredients" as "pathetic but true." He has a crush on a girlfriend of Malley's but makes a big point of not acting on it because she’s going with someone else. Malley falls for a guy online she thinks is her "soulmate" but realizes her error after she's abducted by him. 


"Butt," "pee," "fart," "damn," "dumbass," "sucks."


Aside from allusions to previous (adult) Skink books to send fans on a search for more, there are occasional mentions of product brands, such as iPod, L.L. Bean, Google, Wikipedia, Toyota, McDonald's, mostly as scene-setting. Richard and Skink bond over Bob Dylan, Pearl Jam, and the Rolling Stones.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Among the adults, some of the villains and colorful local characters drink, often to excess.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Carl Hiaasen's Skink -- No Surrender, involves plenty of violence, but much of it is presented as improbably cartoonish. There's gunplay, kidnapping, death by alligator, and attempted murder as 14-year-old Richard tries to save his cousin from the guy she met on the Internet. The author's first book for the teen audience offers Hiaasen staples galore, from Skink, the one-eyed superhero/former (and allegedly deceased) governor, to lots of Florida local color and environmental messages. Characters, especially teens, show colossally bad judgment with dire consequences, such as 14-year-old Malley running off with her online soul mate and discovering he's a mean thug with sex on his mind. Despite the lurid events, numerous perils, and gleeful use of gross-out (much of it having to do with whatever's serving as Skink's missing eye at the moment), evil has a way of getting its comeuppance, and good values, crafty thinking, and good connections often save the day. 

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Teen, 16 years old Written byMuki January 6, 2015

Skink No Surrener review

Skink No Surrender, by Carl Hiaasen, is a thrilling, non-stop adventure that focuses on environmental problems without being preachy. This is a fast-paced book... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byLibrarymouse December 29, 2015

Typical Hiassen, but none the worse because of it

This book is full of classic Hiassen of his first 3 books (Hoot, Flush, and Chomp). If you've read any of these, you know some of what to expect. Florida s... Continue reading

What's the story?

Fourteen-year-old cousins Richard and Malley have been BFFs practically since birth and make it their business to protect the eggs of nesting sea turtles near their Florida home -- which is why Richard senses trouble when Malley first doesn't show up for turtle-watching and then proceeds to tell him one obvious lie after another by phone and text. But, while he's on the beach looking for Malley, he meets the surreal Clint Tyree, protagonist of numerous Carl Hiaasen novels, who despite his strange appearance (one-eyed, bearded, and sporting a flowered shower cap -- and that's just for starters) proves to be a man of many resources. This comes in handy as the duo hits the road in search of Malley -- who, it turns out, has decided to avoid her parents' plan to send her to boarding school by running off with some "soul mate" she met on the Internet and is now sending Richard cries for help disguised as sunny travel reports.

Is it any good?

This book is not going to be every reader's dish. The main character is a crazed-looking hero with bird beaks and other strange objects in his matted beard, a fondness for eating roadkill, and a habit of popping out whatever's serving as a replacement for his missing eye. Also, the teen protagonists' ill-advised decisions are enough to make any parent's blood run cold.

But best-selling author Hiaasen's storytelling skills and trademark exuberant weirdness with a strong moral compass will keep adventure fans cracking up as they turn the pages in SKINK: NO SURRENDER -- and pick up a few life lessons along the way. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about environmental issues and Silent Spring. What do you know about the book and how it changed things?

  • Why do you think the ivory-billed woodpecker keeps turning up as a theme in stories? Do you think it symbolizes anything in particular?

  • After the adventures of No Surrender, do you think you'd like to visit Florida and check out the local plants, animals, and scenery? How does an author make a place seem exciting and interesting?

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