Review copy provided by author.
Since I really wound up liking the last Peter Pan retelling I read at the end of last year, more have been on my radar and this title was one of them. So when I was contacted and asked if I would like to review this one, I said yes immediately.
Quite different from the previous one I read, Wendy Darling, I was a little concerned it would be sort of the same thing, very pleased to find it was quite different. This story follows a modern times teen, Gwen, who's younger sister Rosemary disappears one night, and Gwen finds out she's run off to Neverland with Peter Pan. There's a really interesting concept of magic used that all the adults seem to know about and have known about for years, including Gwen's parents and the police Gwen only finds out after Rosemary's disappearance is being investigated.
Gwen is at a very awkward stage in her life - she's sixteen, too old for some of the things her sister enjoys playing with and bugging her about - but not old enough to be treated as an adult and this really bugs her. The author does a brilliant job of capturing Gwen's awkwardness in this phase. And it does become a huge point throughout the novel - to want to be a grown up or act with the freedom of a child. Though I did find it got very wordy and very descriptive with a lot of philosophical waxing, pondering from Gwen's inner monologue and it did get kind of repetitive and a little dull.
Gwen finds herself flying off to Neverland with Peter and Rosemary who come back for her. Gwen's a great story teller and this endears her to all the Lost Children in Neverland. The depiction of Neverland is described as a fantastical place full of wonder and whimsy and I really liked the take on the familiar concepts - the fairies, the mermaids, I particularly liked that the children were a mix of both boys and girls, as well as the fairies. The feeling of joy and adventure was delightfully captured as Gwen gets to know Peter and explore Neverland.
As for Peter, I did find him more aloof in this version than anything. There was certainly the added mysteriousness and clear leadership traits but still more aloof than anything else really. There's a war going on between Neverland and reality, the grown ups in reality seem to be trying to destroy Neverland but this wasn't really explored much until right at the end of the novel. Much of it is Gwen exploring Neverland and struggling to find where she fits in as she meets all colourful Neverland people and creatures. One little bit of action when the infamous crocodile appears, but after that the plot took a slow turn again.
As fun and amusing as it was, it did feel a little slow. And then there was a rush of action right up towards the end when the ugliness of war finally breaks through. Also included a surprisingly sad twist. The end felt a little abrupt too and I had a few questions that went unanswered. I would hope to see a sequel or at least a short what happened to Gwen after the book ended.
Overall, a well written enjoyable YA fantasy I would certainly recommend particularly to children 10+ and younger teenagers.