• Publication year: 2005
• Type: Novel
• Genre: Societal/”Problem-Based”/Environmental Fiction
• Length: 263 pages
• Appropriate grade level: 6th – 8th grade
A casino boat is illegally dumping gallons of raw sewage into the Florida water. With their impulsive father in jail for sinking the boat, Noah and his sister Abby try to vindicate their father and prove that the boat is a threat to the environment.
Although I had mixed feelings about Flush in the beginning, I think I can see myself teaching this novel. Carl Hiaasen does an incredible job of presenting the issue of environmental trashing by humans. The plot is action-packed and humorous with many positive messages and lessons hidden between the lines. I would probably teach this book as an introduction to a unit designed to instigate activism or at the very least, raise awareness of environmental issues. In addition, the book can invite cooperation with science teachers as they cover a unit dealing with ecology, ecosystems, or human influences on the environment.
Not only is Flush a great eco-friendly text, the book also includes several other thematic connections that would work well as discussion starters inside a classroom. The most relevant themes for middle school students include bullying, sacrifice, family, and conflicting values. Undeniably, a plethora of writing prompts can be generated on such themes and other questions the book opens for conversation. For instance, students can be asked to analyze the symbolism of character names (i.e. Dusty, Lice, Paine, etc.), discuss the nature of bullies, consider the limits of free speech/expression, or even create brochures that inspire people to “go green”.
Although there is a small possibility that the book could be challenged because of some curse words and violence (one character gets pounded with a rake), I think the controversy would be very small. In fact, the lack of controversy would be one of my main problems with this book. Hiaasen seems determined to stay in “safe” territory with his overt environmental message, along with the “mini-messages” woven into the plot. For instance, anytime a controversial subject arises, the characters are informed about its “evil” (i.e. the evils of smoking and drinking and the dangers of not wearing a seatbelt or life jacket).
Nonetheless, I’m sure parents and conservatives would be very happy with the deliberate lessons found in Flush. In fact, because of the “safe” nature of this book, I think Flush is more suitable for the youngest readers of YAL (6th grade through middle school.) All things considered, I think this book would be an enjoyable read for students and a great tool for Lit teachers.