Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell
This is not the Neverland you know.
For as long as she can remember, Gwendolyn Allister has never had a place to call home—all because her mother believes that monsters are hunting them. Now these delusions have brought them to London, far from the life Gwen had finally started to build for herself. The only saving grace is her best friend, Olivia, who’s coming with them for the summer.
But when Gwen and Olivia are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and taken to a world of flesh-eating sea hags and dangerous Fey, Gwen realizes her mom might have been sane all along.
The world Gwen finds herself in is called Neverland, yet it’s nothing like the stories. Here, good and evil lose their meaning and memories slip like water through her fingers. As Gwen struggles to remember where she came from and find a way home, she must choose between trusting the charming fairy-tale hero who says all the right things and the roguish young pirate who promises to keep her safe.
With time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But will she be able to save Neverland without losing herself?
When I was offered the opportunity to review this book, I was like, hells yes! A Peter Pan retelling! I am so in! I love Peter Pan, you see. I have read the book and the play. I have watched and loved the movies. I have been to the play and plays inspired by it. I went out of my way to make it to the statue in London. Peter Pan is great.
When this book arrived, I read it basically right away. How could I not? Honestly, at that point I hadn’t read the synopsis in its entirety. I got as far as “Neverland” and didn’t look back. I don’t think I actually read the synopsis fully until after I finished the book…
This is something I do a lot, really. It’s possible I read the synopsis at some point in the past, but by the time I go to read the book, I either don’t remember it or never read it. I prefer it this way. There are too many books that give away too much in the synopsis. It’s usually much more enjoyable to go in blind. That way the author’s twists and turns and take on the subject matter have more opportunity to surprise and delight. (She says this while having posted the synopsis at the top of this review).
ANYWAY, I did enjoy this book. It was fun, exciting, and adventurous. It had some twists and deviations from the main source, just as you’d like in a retelling. I enjoyed the main characters, especially the Captain (someone catch me, I may be swooning). My favourite part of the characters is that none of them are particularly straight forward. They are more complex than either simply good or evil. There is more to it than that.
Another thing I really liked was that the story was kind of self-aware of its status as a retelling. The characters are aware of story of Peter Pan and Neverland. They know the main characters and plot points. It’s pretty interesting seeing how they reconcile that with the reality before them.
While I did enjoy this book, I have to say that I wasn’t blown away by it. There were even some times that I found myself actively annoyed. At times the writing was clumsy and repetitive, with extreme overuse of adjectives–such that it pulled me out of the story and really frustrated me. I will say that I did read the ARC, so hopefully there will be more editing before the finished copies are released. There were times that the writing was just plain bad, and there were other times the writing was quite good–it was just, as a whole, wildly inconsistent.
Overall, this is a fun retelling. I think it could have done more with the amazing source material it draws from, but overall it was good and I sped right through it. If you’re into YA retellings and like adventure stories, you’ll like this one.
What do you like to see in a retelling?
Beth is the founder and editor of Fuelled by Fiction. She is a twenty-something east coast Canadian girl who loves writing about books and feminism.