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Review: Wendy Darling

Wendy Darling: Stars - Colleen Oakes

I received a copy from Netgalley.


I’ve not read a Peter Pan retelling before and my knowledge of the original is limited to the Disney movie version. So I figured I would give this one a chance. It started off fairly boring to be honest. Beautifully written, but very dull. Wendy was kind of bland and uninteresting, Michael the five year old was cute, and John the other brother was a complete ass. Wendy is a 16 year old girl who’s supposed to be getting ready for a profitable match for her family, but she’s secretly in love with the bookseller’s son, Booth. Who adores her. Wendy is torn because her society status will not accept a lady of her standing to be with the bookseller’s son. Even though he’s sweet, charming and really does truly seem to care for her.


Wendy is crushed when her father confirms her fears, and hints if she doesn’t cut off her feelings for Booth, then she may be shipped off to boarding school. Her brothers don’t help much, and John is dick when he finds a love note Booth has written Wendy. But next thing you know, the enigmatic Peter Pan has appeared and charmed them all with tales of Neverland, flying and the promise of thrills and adventure and that he can have them all escape for the night and be home before their parents even realise that the children are gone.


So off they go on an exciting adventure. Wendy is kind of nervous, but goes along with the flow. It’s all meandering along nicely, there’s a great sense of wonder as Wendy and her brothers experience the thrills and nerves of flying and arriving in Neverland. There’s a captivating sense of beauty in actually arriving in the magic of Neverland, the beautiful seas, the beautiful but disturbingly deadly mermaids. The sense of adventure and no rules and grownups around to tell anyone what do.


Wendy though, appears to be struggling greatly with the sense of keeping to the manners she has been brought up with. However, arriving on Pan Island with Peter and meeting the Lost Boys – it’s clear being a well-mannered girl is something of a problem. These boys haven’t seen a girl in years and Wendy is something of an anomaly. She’s treated with suspicion and the boys are constantly poking and prodding her.  Until Peter tells them to leave her alone and show her some respect.


As dull as she is, though you have to give it to Wendy Darling – she must have the patience of a saint to put up with the appalling manners of the Lost Boys. They are just not used to having a girl around. And the only other female form – is Tink, the last fairy. Who hates Wendy. I almost find myself sympathising with Tink a lot – what is it about Wendy that’s so special, there’s nothing particularly remarkable about her at all (other than her manners and endless patience) it’s really hard to fathom out what it is that Peter sees in her.


Wendy shows remarkable tolerance and tries to befriend Tink in spite of Tink’s nastiness and threats and acts of violence against her. The boys come to enjoy her company and Wendy tries to get into the swing of things – eating with them and sitting with them, climbing around the trees and walking the dangerous rope bridges. Peter Pan himself is sassy and eloquent, just has a presence that commands attention and holds your intrigue and respect. He’s full of great stories and all the Lost Boys want his special attention and favour. He makes everyone feel welcome and part of the fun.


As soon as the Darling siblings arrive and have been welcomed, Peter tells a story of daring deeds with the notorious Captain Hook and decides they need a raid to steal booze from the pirates to have a proper welcome feast for Wendy and her brothers. John’s smarts get him made a General in the Lost Boys and have a big part in the raid. Wendy is terribly worried for him. John dismisses her and is very cruel to her.


For the most part, the novel up to this point has been fairly bland, as I mentioned very well written, though I failed to see why it was marketed for a YA audience, and thought I could easily see reading this to group of younger children – it’s fun, kids would get a kick out of the excitement of the Lost Boys and the thrill of adventure and those looking for romance would enjoy the budding thrill between Peter and Wendy.


Once the pirate raid happens, things quickly took a much darker turn than I anticipated.  It goes very wrong very quickly and ends in terrible violence. It’s not all fun and games anymore and there are some serious issues with Peter’s greed when everything starts falling apart. Wendy is naturally very worried and shocked about what happens. Though Peter’s so charming he can talk his way round pretty much anything. And starts heating up the romance angle again. Which pretty much makes Wendy swoony.


Though thanks to Wendy’s latest encounter with Tink, she starts to realise there are very important things she’s forgetting. This is when things get darker still. Neverland is looking so fun anymore. At least not to Wendy as she starts to remember their parents and their lives in London. And also begins to be concerned about whether or not they will ever get home.


Peter’s pushing the romance angle in a way that started off as quite – well – romantic, but when Wendy can’t go through with taking things to another level he gets very jealous and very very angry.  He acts like a spoiled brat – he’s pushy, cruel and actually threatening. It’s shocking and disturbing by this point. Wendy wants to home. John won’t listen – he’s crueller than ever. Michael’s quite agreeable to go with Wendy. Wendy wants her family together. She’s torn.

(show spoiler)


By the end of the novel, Wendy shows incredible strength as she fights to get herself and Michael to safety, away from Peter who’s shown a much more frightening side than she ever realised. It’s life or death to escape and Wendy realises she will do whatever it takes to get home. John for now seems like a lost cause, but her priority becomes getting Michael away from the Lost Boys and safe. The last twenty percent or so is absolutely gripping and quite scary.


And left at one brilliant cliff-hanger. I really can not wait for the next book.


Thank you to Netgalley and SparksPress for approving my request to view this title.