by Audrey Greathouse
Published on May 9, 2016 by Clean Teen Publishing
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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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.
I wanted to like this book. I really did. Everything up until reading was beautiful: the cover, the description, the promise of a Peter Pan re-telling. Yet, when it came to the actual reading, I almost put it down for good.
Peter Pan isn’t my all-time favorite childhood story by any means but the last time I read a re-telling, it was Peter and the Starcatchers which I really enjoyed. The Neverland Wars hinted at a new version for an older audience and there was plenty about the world to catch the eye.
I’m always a sucker for magic and the “anything is possible” mentality. Limitless magic has its perks, especially in the hands of children as it exists in Neverland. Plus, magic being the source of our modern technology, including smartphones? Definitely laughed at that but at the same time, I appreciated the connection of science to magic. The way it was described, however, in a rush of explanation from the main character’s father, sat sour in my head.
But magic can’t be the center of this story and it isn’t, sadly. That would be Gwen, a sixteen year old with a love for all things fictional and fantastical. She has a younger sister Rosemary and they’re close, which was nice to see especially with the age difference. While I can’t personally connect with that kind of relationship, I figured there would be some other element of Gwen’s character that made her relatable. Instead, my first impression of her was pretentious hipster and it soon turned to irresponsible child. She struck me as a much younger character than her age, which only seemed to be a plot device to provide for the weird almost-love triangle at the end and the accompanying party scene that no child would be found at.
So the main character wasn’t great. Can’t say much for the supporting cast either as the only one beside Rose who stood out was Peter (for obvious reasons). The rest of the lost children (not just boys, but girls too) faded into a mess of names. It’s not the first time I’ve read a book where the characters just didn’t do it for me. But in this case neither did the plot.
At a glance, The Neverland Wars sounds like a romping adventure with a teen taking to the sky and Neverland to bring her sister home from Pan, kidnapper of children. Those first mentions of magic had me imagining Pan from the TV show Once Upon a Time. And if all else failed, this is a re-telling, right? So we’ll see elements of the story…
Except there’s just Peter and his lost
My all-time favorite character from Peter Pan, Captain Hook, made no appearance except in a somewhat familiar name of Jay Hoek, Gwen’s high school crush. Who made an appearance at the beginning to introduce his character and start the inklings of romance for the rest of the story, then at the end to hint at a possible closure before being ripped away because Gwen has no care for anything but attending Jay’s party.
Seriously?! You’re sixteen, you left your home to get your sister after learning that magic exists (which would be flooring to begin with), and when you return you go to a party instead of telling your parents you’re safe?
And the ending… It doesn’t appear this book is part of a series so the ending offered no closure on Gwen’s story. I finished the end of the last chapter and went to keep reading since my Kindle said there was still 6% left in the book. Was it another chapter, an epilogue? Nope. The book just…ended. Not even on a cliffhanger necessarily because that would require investment in the story. Just before it could offer any real ending. I left unsatisfied with Gwen’s decision and the way it was shown.
Finally, the writing style took adjustment and simply wasn’t my cup of tea. I found it wordy and overly descriptive without actually saying anything, though technically it was overall good. At 30% I almost left this book unfinished but chose to continue hoping it got better. I can’t say it did and just don’t think this was the book for me.
[Edit 7/17/16: I have just learned that there will be a sequel to this book, which does make the ending seem more logical, however my opinions remain the same as when I originally wrote this review.]