The Bigtree alligator wrestling dynasty is in decline — think Buddenbrooks set in the Florida Everglades — and Swamplandia!, their island home and gator-wrestling theme park, is swiftly being encroached upon by a sophisticated competitor known as the World of Darkness. 

Ava, a resourceful but terrified twelve year old, must manage seventy gators and the vast, inscrutable landscape of her own grief. Her mother, Swamplandia!’s legendary headliner, has just died; her sister is having an affair with a ghost called the Dredgeman; her brother has secretly defected to the World of Darkness in a last-ditch effort to keep their sinking family afloat; and her father, Chief Bigtree, is AWOL. To save her family, Ava must journey on her own to a perilous part of the swamp called the Underworld, a harrowing odyssey from which she emerges a true heroine.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)


What just happened?  Having read the full-length book, I can honestly say I have no idea what the point of reading the book was.  I started to dread finishing it and when I did only bits and pieces were intriguing.  I didn’t find any of the characters realistic because none of them seemed to be consistent in their personalities.  WHY DO AVA AND KIWI OPERATE IN DIFFERENT TIMES?  Their stories are supposed to be parallel, but while a few hours go by for Ava, weeks go by for Ossie.  It just makes no sense.

The general plot felt like it hadn’t been completely thought through.  There were so many questions that I was left with and so many things left unaddressed.  I couldn’t even tell what was real half the time.  Another reviewer mentioned that Russell write short stories and that’s what this felt like to me…not completely thought through and ambiguous.  I just wish I hadn’t spent so much time on it.

Rating: 2 stars!

Who should read it? People interested in alligators.