Scat is Carl Hiaasen's third book for young readers, following Hoot and Flush. In this novel, like his others, he focuses on environmentalism and Florida, but he also tones down the content compared with his regular novels.
Scat follows the story of Nick and Marta, two high school students, who are in Mrs. Starch's biology class. Mrs. Starch is legendary as the strictest teacher in the school, with a singular focus on teaching biology. One day, she takes her biology classes on a vacation to a local swamp. While they are there, a mysterious swamp fire stars, forcing the trip to an abrupt end. After the students return to school, they realize that Mrs. Starch has not returned. The next day, principal reassures the students that Mrs. Starch had to leave due to a family emergency, but this excuse does not sit well with Nick. First of all, he is not aware of Mrs. Starch having any family, and also she had been previously threatened by Dwayne "Smoke" Scrod, a rebellious student who had a run-in with her.
Nick decided to investigate Mrs. Starch's disappearance and brings Marta along to help. They begin by visiting her house on the outskirts of town, but are chased away by a mysterious man named Twilly Spree. Although they (as well as the police) suspect Smoke to be involved with Mrs. Starch's disappearance, Nick is baffled when Smoke suddenly visits to borrow his biology book. To further this improbable connection, Smoke seeks out Nick to tell Nick that he is innocent as he runs from the police who have come to apprehend him at school. Nick and Marta's search for Mrs. Starch adds a new dimension as they try to figure out if Smoke was telling the truth.
Then of course, there is the environmental element. A man named Drake McBride from a rich family is determined to prove to his father that he is not a total failure, even though everything he has ever done suggests this. He stakes out a claim to drill for oil, then comes up with a scheme to make money from the government even though his claim has not panned out. However, he runs against obstacles as his project is repeatedly sabotaged and his employees have strange things happen to them.
Like all of Carl Hiaasen's books, Scat is filled with a variety of eccentric characters. Nick and Marta are the regular people, who get sucked into the plot to help save the environment. Drake McBride is funny, with his faux Texas cowboy act, while Dr. Dressler, the principal of Nick and Marta's school, is a stereotypical administrator who is solely out to cover his own butt when anything goes wrong. The list goes on, with the Scrod family (including a rich grandmother), Dr. Waxmo, a very strange substitute teacher, and of course Mrs. Starch.
The plot of Scat moves very quickly, as Hiaasen weaves in various subplots, such as Nick's father serving in Iraq and Nick's fascination with the Florida panther. Hiaasen also takes care to help readers picture the Florida setting he cares so much about. It adds up to a thoroughly interesting novel.