Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Coming of Age
Release Date: November 25, 2013
In this coming of age novel, Lettie and Bert squeak by in a tiny town on Cape Cod, one parent an alcoholic and the other absent.
After a string of bad decisions on Lettie’s part, their father ships them to their barely remembered mother for the summer, where they will learn hard lessons about themselves, their family, and their future by way of the Florida swamp.
Throughout Lettie keeps her biting humor flowing, her razor-sharp pen at the ready, and her eye on her quest for a “normal” life.
I was excited to read No Alligators in Sight by Kirsten B. Feldman. It seemed like the kind of book that I would like. That being said I’m almost reluctant to write this review, but I’ve put it off long enough as I’ve tried to gather my thoughts. No Alligators in Sight follows Lettie as she tries to navigate the waters of a not so great life, taking care of her younger brother and alcoholic father.
Lettie is thirteen and has extreme anger issues, though who could blame her with the life she’s leading. I really liked how Feldman started the story out. I liked seeing the Mother and daughter talking and then deciding to read the Mom’s journal, which lead us to the past where we see Lettie’s life through the eyes of her younger self.
Feldman did a great job of developing her characters and fleshing out the world that Lettie lived in. Her plot was well developed and well executed, but there was something missing. I don’t know what it was and I still can’t pinpoint it. But I couldn’t seem to connect with Lettie at all throughout the book.
I was a little bored up until the point where Lettie was sent back to her Father, but her Mother’s husband. He left her at that airport and my heart clenched. From the minute she spoke to her Father on the phone to the end of the book is when I really connected with her. I guess the fact that she spent most of the book complaining and observing sort of turned me off.
But the end was so incredibly good. The last few chapters tugged at my heartstrings and made tears come to my eyes. Seeing Lettie finally accept that she couldn’t expect more than what her Mom could give and seeing her Father finally clean up his act…it was beautiful. And the scene at the end where it flashes back to present time just made me grin.
The end is definitely worth the read; the middle of the book is what got me stuck for a while though and while I would recommend this book I would say to make sure a coming of age book is what you want to read. It’s a little dark and a lot of people sort of belittle Lettie, which is not cool at all. But in the end the journey is worth the destination.
I grew up on Cape Cod and the Connecticut shoreline and now live outside of Boston, much too far from the ocean and the sand. Reading and writing have played a central part in my life both personally and professionally. I am rarely without a book in my hand. Brown University gave me my undergrad degree in comparative literature and Tufts kindly did the same for my master's in English education.
I have worked in a variety of school and museum education settings, including teaching 7th and 8th grade English. My graduate advisor once told me that if teenagers don't make you laugh then consider another career. To me the adolescent voice has such vibrancy and depth to it, whether funny or not; many of my favorite books have this point of view, including:
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood. When I started writing No Alligators in Sight, it was unequivocally Lettie's voice that told me the story.