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  • Published: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.
  • Year Published: 2011
  • Edition: 1st ed.
  • Description: 315 p. ; 25 cm.
  • Language: English
  • Format: Book

ISBN/Standard Number

  • 9780307263995
  • 0307263991


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by Russell, Karen, 1981-

There are currently 5 available

Where To Find It

Call number: Fiction

Available Copies: Downtown 1st Floor, Malletts Adult, West Adult

Additional Details

Twelve year old Ava must travel into the Underworld part of the swamp in order to save her family's dynasty of Bigtree alligator wresting. This novel takes us to the swamps of the Florida Everglades, and introduces us to Ava Bigtree, an unforgettable young heroine. The Bigtree alligator wrestling dynasty is in decline, and Swamplandia!, their island home and gator wrestling theme park, formerly no. 1 in the region, is swiftly being encroached upon by a fearsome and sophisticated competitor called the World of Darkness. Ava's mother, the park's indomitable headliner, has just died; her sister, Ossie, has fallen in love with a spooky character known as the Dredgeman, who may or may not be an actual ghost; and her brilliant big brother, Kiwi, who dreams of becoming a scholar, has just defected to the World of Darkness in a last ditch effort to keep their family business from going under. Ava's father, affectionately known as Chief Bigtree, is AWOL; and that leaves Ava, a resourceful but terrified thirteen, to manage ninety eight gators as well as her own grief. Against a backdrop of hauntingly fecund plant life animated by ancient lizards and lawless hungers, the author has written a novel about a family's struggle to stay afloat in a world that is inexorably sinking.

Community Reviews


Nope, I did not enjoy this book. The events that occur in the story were interesting enough, I suppose, but the protagonist is a young girl who is buffeted by forces outside her control for the entirety of the novel. There are almost NO decisions available to her, so what is the point of reading the story? (There is, eventually, a single decision that is hers to make and follow through on, and it turns out badly. I'm not sure what lesson we are supposed to take from that.)

One third to one half of the way in, the story splits off and we follow the girl's brother as he makes some of his own decisions. This is the only part of the book that actually held any interest to me, as him MAKING DECISIONS (and perhaps especially in the wildly unique-to-him environment of the "normal world") gave me something to pay attention to. But it wasn't enough to redeem the book.

I was really glad to be done with this.


Going into this, all I knew was that it was a Pulitzer contender that (obviously) received wonderful reviews. I wasn't prepared for how dark it was, and I don't mind that in general- But I have to agree with another reviewer here who said the ending was something of a disappointment. A great story doesn't always have to tie up everything perfectly in a nice little bow, but this just didn't quite do the characters justice, considering how strong they are depicted throughout the entire book.

But I will say that this is such an original story. You really sympathize with these characters, and you find yourself staying up way to late to read just one more chapter... and then another three.

Florida Gothic

Karen Russell conveys a vivid sense of place and personality despite going overboard with metaphors. Sometimes the writing drew me out of the narrative. And this is a maddening book to read as a parent. Although the children have true fortitude, they have been ill-prepared for life beyond their island.

Great Imagery

Beautiful imagery. I thought the ending was a let down and just didn't go anywhere. The end was sorta limp. I still enjoyed the book.

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