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Life, Law & Libros

The Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse

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A 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
Synopsis:
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.

Review:
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.

I had a few issues with the writing. One of the biggest was "show, don't tell." While the book gives lots of great details describing Neverland, it failed to show important things like the war, which only got one real scene. Most of Gwen's major conflicts were internal, which is harder to show, but I had difficulties connecting with the writing. The narration was inconsistent in style and tone. I think third person limited point-of-view throughout would have been more effective. The oral storytelling (reciting four(?) short stories in full) also interrupted the flow of the story. Twice it furthered the plot, but twice it pulled me out of the story and could have been summed up in a short paragraph instead. (Side note: There were a few typos in the version I read.)

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.

2 comments :

  1. A Peter Pan retelling I haven't heard of! *checks to see if the library has it* I'm totally addicted to Peter Pan retellings, but have yet to find one that I actually loved as much as the original. Sorry to hear this one didn't seem to work for you, given what you've said, it most likely won't work for me either. But I'm going to have to at least TRY to read it, because Peter! *laughs*

    Also, if those are your introductions to Peter Pan, you need to also check out the Mary Martin version of the play/movie if you ever get a chance. It's one of my favorites. (It's a play, but filmed, and Mary Martin plays Peter.)

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    1. I'm glad to have introduced a Peter Pan fan to a new retelling. Hope you love it!

      And how could I forget Mary Martin as Peter Pan?! We had a VHS of that growing up and I still remember half the songs. Although, I think it was filmed on the 10th anniversary of the play or something, so everybody looked WAY too old for their parts, lol.

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