The Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse
Kel Sunday, June 05, 2016 reviewA big thank you to Audrey for sending me a review copy! I was intrigued by the idea of a Peter Pan retelling. Confession: I've only seen the movie versions (Disney's animated and the Jeremy Sumpter live-action), but the idea of a magical island full of adventure and no grown-ups--what kid, or teenager, could turn that down? Cue this book!
This e-book was provided by the author for review.
The Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse
Series: #1 in a planned trilogy(?)
Genres: YA, SFF, Retelling
Published on May 9, 2016
Published by Clean Teen Publishing
Magic can do a lot—give you flight, show you mermaids, help you taste the stars, and… solve the budget crisis? That's what the grown-ups will do with it if they ever make it to Neverland to steal its magic and bring their children home.
However, Gwen doesn't know this. She's just a sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a powerful crush on Jay, the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn't know her little sister could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that she might have to chase after her to bring her home safe. Gwen will find out though—and when she does, she'll discover she's in the middle of a looming war between Neverland and reality.
She'll be out of place as a teenager in Neverland, but she won't be the only one. Peter Pan's constant treks back to the mainland have slowly aged him into adolescence as well. Soon, Gwen will have to decide whether she's going to join impish, playful Peter in his fight for eternal youth… or if she's going to scramble back to reality in time for the homecoming dance.
The Neverland Wars is a Peter Pan-inspired tale that takes Peter's original fight against aging and turns it into a full scale war against all the adults who monopolize magic and don't give kids a choice about whether to grow up.
Gwen, the protagonist, has just learned magic exists and is trying to cope, first with her little sister's disappearance, then with the reality of Neverland--all while trying to navigate the transition between childhood and adult, questioning whether growing up means leaving everything childish behind. The Peter Pan she meets is older than the book version and more driven and focused. He has the traditional playful spirit and boundless confidence, but he has a purpose; he's a boy at war.
Gwen's sister, Rosemary, and the other lost children are a little too good-natured and angelic. I babysat my neighbor's kids for eight years, starting when they were 3, 2 and 1. Unless these kids are on some sort of Neverland crack, there should be WAY more trouble in paradise. Children left to their own devices do not live a Utopian existence, even, or especially, with a leader like Peter Pan. See Lord of the Flies.
The Neverland Wars starts in reality, flies to Neverland and then back again. It's a slow start. I wish it had introduced magic sooner or spent less time in the real world. The book spends a lot less time in reality at the end, but it's a very jarring shift from Neverland to the real world, especially in content. (From happy, childlike Neverland to booze, parties, drugs, cursing and making out.)
I'm a little unclear on the the why/how/what of the "war," especially on Peter's side. You kidnap their children, want to kidnap more children and are surprised when adults come after you? Also, as a big sister, I had major issues with how Gwen did/didn't handle convincing her sister to go home. Run away to Neverland and stay as long as you want? If my sister pulled that, there most certainly would be a Neverland War. (I'd win and she'd be back home and in major time out within the hour.)
Overall, I think the plot would have flowed more smoothly if the author limited Gwen's introspection/internal conflict and added more tangible scenes focused on the war, the relationship with her sister, or even on the relationship with Peter. The medicine woman's and mermaid's prophecies hint at big things to come, but I wish we had seen more of it now.
There is a little too much teen angst and philosophical self-reflection for my taste, and Gwen settles on very few answers. I'm interested to see how the whole prophecy thing plays out. (It promises trouble down the road and some sort of romance. I have theories.) However, I would probably need a friend's confirmation that the narration flowed more consistently before picking up the sequel.