Swamplandia! (and, yes, every time I saw one of those mid-sentence exclamation points, the punctuation nerd in me—the same nerd who remembers being told every writer gets only three exclamations points in her entire life—got a shudder of delight) tells the story of the Bigtree family as they recover from the loss of their mother, wife, and star attraction at Swamplandia!, an alligator-wrestling themed swampland park. The narration is shared between Ava Bigtree, a thirteen-year-old alligator wrestler who’s determined to follow in her mother’s footsteps and save the park; and her older brother Kiwi, who has his own vision of heroism, one that involves saving the Swamplandia! but also going to college and using lots of big words and learning not to sound like an alien life form to the mainlanders. Kiwi begins his quest on the Florida mainland, a place as odd and terrifying as the swamplands Ava finds herself negotiating without her parents or siblings: it quickly becomes clear that either place will take the courage of an alligator-wrestler to survive.
This book is wild and wonderful! Read it!! You’ll enjoy every exclamation point. Not a one is undeserved. (!).