A New York Times Top 10 Book of 2011
Thirteen-year-old Ava Bigtree has lived her entire life at Swamplandia!, her family’s island home and gator-wrestling theme park in the Florida Everglades. But when illness fells Ava’s mother, the park’s indomitable headliner, the family is plunged into chaos; her father withdraws, her sister falls in love with a spooky character known as the Dredgeman, and her brilliant big brother, Kiwi, defects to a rival park called The World of Darkness. As Ava sets out on a mission through the magical swamps to save them all, we are drawn into a lush and bravely imagined debut that takes us to the shimmering edge of reality.
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There is a line between dark humor and tastelessness.
Before I read the rape scene I would have happily given this book 3/5. Everything goes from bad to worse and spoiler: no ending. The family is seemingly reunited yet still in debt and most likely going to lose their home. Everything ventured, nothing gained.
Yes the book is humorous and interesting, but it has far too many digressions that have nothing to do with the main story.
Kiwi Bigtree (18) is the most interesting and believable character, but gets less than a third of the book. 12/13 year old Ava, who is supposed to be relatively uneducated (save for a convenient library boat and previous correspondence school lessons), has an immense vocabulary and frequently thinks in poetic monologues. While she is being raped and in pain, she remarks on how her sexual experience is real unlike her sister's pretended orgies with ghosts in their bedroom.
As someone with a human rights background, I find it inexcusable for an author to just throw in an unnecessary-to-the-plot rape scene just to bring the female character into an "awakened stage." Truly tasteless.