A Sharks Incorporated Novel
Randy Wayne White
Roaring Brook Press, 2020, 320 pp, HC $16.99, Kindle $9.99
Age Range: 8 - 12 years, Grade Level: 3 - 7
In his young adult fiction debut, Fins, White spins off of his popular Doc Ford novels. Luke moves from his Ohio farm after his mother dies to live with his aunt Hanna Smith on Sanibel Island. Maribel and Sabina, two sisters, refugees from Cuba have also recently moved to the island. Together this unlikely trio is brought together under the tutelage of Doc Ford and Hannah Smith to tag young Black fin sharks for Ford's research.
Fins is full of Randy Wayne White's trademark humor and insight into Southwest Florida. This book has all of the adventure to entertain any middle school child, and he effortlessly intertwines plenty of information about the plight of sharks, and safety measures around operating a boat. The three children need to learn all the basics and then some, and White describes it all thoroughly. There is also a slightly supernatural aspect of the novel which I found an intriguing plot point.
In the beginning of the novel we are introduced to Luke, who believes himself not that intelligent. Before moving to Sanibel Island he'd been told that he was below average, only good at baseball and farm work. In the first chapter Luke is struck by lightning. Suddenly he has a keen sense of smell, can see things that should be too far away for the human eye, and can see colors around people that indicate whether they are good or evil. He also has an uncanny ability to understand dogs; these aspects are extremely useful throughout the novel and as the trio encounter poachers.
As Luke, Maribel and Sabina grow to know each other through their training to tag sharks they become a real team and become The Sharks Inc. crew. They each have inner monologues that inform us of their wisdom, insecurities and growing loyalties to each other and the sharks they tag and protect. The youngest sister Sabina is a spitfire, Maribel is quiet with the weight of the world on her shoulders. This pressure is due to living with her single mother and younger sister on a houseboat; the trials of surviving on a Cuban refugee boat are also touched upon.
When the three encounter real life shark poachers, who kill sharks for their fins, the action escalates. The adults don't believe them at first and an unfortunate interview with the press doesn't help their cause. The kids, however, persevere in the investigation and the ending has a few twists that are satisfying.
This is the first Shark Inc. book in the series and as an adult I am looking forward to more. This is an educational adventure that will be a great for middle school kids and any fan of White.