Billy Audubon Dickens doesn’t go out of his way to make friends at school because he knows he won’t be staying long. His mom has a fixation on bald eagles and insists on living wherever she can monitor a pair. They mate for life, so the length of each particular bald eagle relationship determines how long her family stays in one place. His mom works a succession of jobs including accounting and driving an Uber. Though they are not rich, the family has enough money to buy a home, pay the usual expenses and make plans to send Billy’s sister Belinda to college after spring graduation. Billy himself works part-time bagging groceries at the local Publix when he is not off scouring the countryside for interesting snakes and observing the native wildlife.
It is this fascination with snakes that seals his reputation at school as champion of the under-trodden and someone not to be messed with. He also draws upon these skills when he decides it’s finally time to track down his father, who divorced his mom when he was very small. Other than sending a child support check each month, his dad has maintained no contact with his two children in Florida. Although his mother shreds each check envelope when it arrives to destroy the return address, Billy manages to retrieve and piece one together, using that information to arrange a flight to Montana to confront his elusive dad for answers.
Thus ensues quite the exciting adventure, involving discovery of his dad’s second family (who are Native Americans), mysterious drone investigations, exotic wildlife poaching, cross-country flights to track down a wealthy criminal, and contacts with all kinds of sketchy people. Billy’s talent in managing snakes transfers to skill in managing people. His approach to dealing with threatening people is just as effective (be patient, approach with care, make no sudden or violent moves, leave room for them to escape and save face). The reader will admire his shrewd approaches to dicey situations and generally laugh out loud at his inventiveness.
This is a great read for young adults. There is nothing objectionable in it unless you count one “hell” and various forms of “ass” (crazy-ass, big-ass, jackass, grumpy-ass, dumb-ass–you get the picture). Where I’m from in the South we don’t generally blink at that kind of talk but I realize not all librarians will deal with the same kind of parents, so here’s your caution. It’s refreshing to see Hiaasen use “#@&$” to replace the actual cusswords.
There is violence involving guns, hunting, using people for bear bait, etc. but nothing gratuitous.
Buy this one for your library.