Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Book Review: Alligators Overhead

by Mary Sutton / @mary_sutton73

Author: C. Lee McKenzie
Personal Rating 4/5 stars

When Pete Riley loses his parents and is shipped off to live with his Aunt Lizzie, he doesn't think life can get much worse. Hadleytown is down-right boring. The only excitement comes from pranks and hanging with his friend Weasel. That is, things are boring until the Hadley Mansion, which hasn't been seen in 100 years, appears out of nowhere. Now Pete is hearing Harriet Hadley's voice in his head, making wishes come true, and talking to alligators. And what is all this about Aunt Lizzie being a witch?

I know, you may think that orphaned boys discovering magical powers has been done (Harry Potter anyone?). But Alligators Overhead is a delightful take on a familiar theme. Every young person is searching for identity. And while I have no personal experience, I'm sure most orphans are searching for a new sense of "home" and "family."

There are a couple of things that really made this book engaging for me. First, there doesn't seem to be a huge conspiracy among Hadleytown's witches, called "tellers," to hide. I mean, they aren't living right out in the open, but they also aren't using magic to hide themselves (unlike the great extents that wizards go to hide themselves from Muggles). They live perfectly ordinary lives - a baker, a craft shop owner, etc. This immersion feels very natural and makes the magic blend in well. It's just something they don't talk about.

Next, there is Weasel. He is not a witch (or warlock, as he so accurately points out). He's just a normal guy. And once he gets over the shock of having a warlock for a friend (although Pete's ability to wish food into existence is pretty cool), he adds real value to the story. He's not just some dippy non-magic sidekick along for the ride. Weasel is smart, probably smarter than Pete, and he uses those smarts to help his friend reason his way out of trouble. It's a partnership that works.

Perhaps one of the most delightful twists on the familiar "witches and wizards" trope are the alligators. No black cats or owls here. No, it is the alligators that serve as the familiars in Hadleytown. It is the oldest alligator, The Elder, who guides Pete through his most trying moment - the most critical point in is youthful wizard career.

All told, Alligators Overhead provides a delightful diversion for young readers and is a book that would especially appeal to boys. Pete is a friend whom they can related to, and who they can root on in his quest to save the Ornofree.

Alligators Overhead is available from Amazon (paperback and Kindle), Barnes&Noble (paperback and Nook), and Smashwords (ebook only).

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes. The review above is entirely my own and receipt of a complimentary copy in no way influenced my review.

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