Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Review: Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

So Grad Student showed me this great trick of hitting up NPR books for reviews about really great Young Adult Fiction (see sidebar links!). I was all over that website at the end of the year, especially when they were highlighting the "Best of 2011" reviews.

Swamplandia! was one of these recommendations from NPR and after reading their review, I thought, what the hey, let's read it.

Once I got a few chapters into the book, I quickly realized this wasn't Young Adult fiction and - whoops - I must have travelled outside of the YAF recommendations on NPR. Let me tell you, when you're expecting some light-hearted YAF and you get Debbie Downer - It. Is. Shocking.

The basic premise is a family living in the swamp of Florida on their gator farm after their mother (Hilola) and star of their gator swimming show passes away from ovarian cancer. The family is the weirdest of the weird (weird for the sake of being weird, almost) and the book chronicles the fall out from Hilola's death through the eyes of pre-teen Ava and her 18-year-old brother Kiwi.

The first thing I noticed was that it was totally unbelievable that a 12-year-old was narrating part of this book as there were a ton of SAT words - Kindle's Oxford dictionary was working overtime on this one. But whatever, I'll suspend belief.

This book was dark. Based on the title (yeah, I said it), the fact that I thought this was YA fiction and the review, I wasn't really expecting that. Maybe you have to be in a certain type of mood to call this a page turner, but I was just totally put-off from the beginning. There were so many (sad) side stories happening that it was hard to follow and the periphery became distracting to the overall story development.

I actually am not 100% why I continued reading it (library guilt?), but I did and I'm not saying it's a bad book, just that be prepared it is dark and stormy (you would need a Jack and Coke vs. a Whiskey Sour).


  1. Goosie Mama- so sad to lead you astray!! I owe you, perhaps an adult beverage at Tortilla Flats will sooth this over. And its cool to have a deal breaker that leads you to JUST SAY NO to a book. you know my feelings on twin incest--NOT OK. STOP IT, George RR Martin.

  2. After reading so many glowing reviews of this one, I was considering snoopin' around at the library for it -- but now I'm pretty sure all the things that bothered you would definitely bother me, too. So the jury is out.


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