Swamplandia! By Karen Russell
Young teenager Ava lives with her family, the BigTree tribe, on an island right off the Florida coast, running their Swamplandia! theme park. Centering on alligators, the park’s featured attraction is her mother, who dives into and wrestles her way out of a pit holding more than 90 gators. After their mother dies in her 30’s of cancer, each member of the family deals with her death in different ways. Her older sister gets drawn into the spirit world, her older brother goes to the mainland, working for a rival theme park in the hope of earning enough to pay down the family’s debt. After her father goes to the mainland on a business trip, Ava sets out to reunite and save them all, with some frightening and bizarre adventures along the way.
I loved these characters; they became so real to me that I worried about them and kept reading even late at night. I had to find out what happened to them! Ava’s voice is astonishing in its true to life narrative of her concern for her family and her determination to make things work out. The author’s incredible imagination makes this story completely engaging.
Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson