Sunday, April 12, 2015

Review: Neverland

"It's been four months since seventeen-year-old Livy Cloud lost her younger sister, but she isn't quite ready to move on with her life - not even close. She'd rather spend her time at the Seattle Children's hospital, reading to the patients and holding onto memories of the sister who was everything to her and more. But when she meets the mysterious and illusive Meyer she is drawn into a world of adventure, a world where questions abound. Is she ready to live life without her sister? Or more importantly, is she brave enough to love again? In this modern reimagining of Peter Pan, will Livy lose herself to Neverland or will she find what she's been searching for?"

Peter Pan is my favorite fairy tale, and when I lived in England I made the pilgrimage to his statue in Kensington Gardens often. So when I got the chance to read an eARC of Shari Arnold's Neverland, I was excited to read a retelling of my beloved Peter's story.*

Neverland is Livy's story - a girl who loses her young sister to cancer, and continues to devote herself to other sick children. One day she meets mischievous yet mysterious Meyer and the adventure begins. Obviously, Meyer is the Peter Pan character. Livy is quickly wrapped up in his crazy dares and her own feelings for him. The novel itself is more complex that just a straightforward retelling: characters struggle with grief, and death is very much a central character in this book.

For me, the book is a bit lacking until the second half, when we actually get to Neverland. In the first part, we meet Livy and her grief, and follow as she gets swept up in the whirlwind that is Meyer. I found Livy a bit frustrating, because she's constantly asking "what am I doing? why am I going with him? something doesn't seem right." And then proceeds to grab his hand and go along. The same thing happens with James Hale, who suddenly replaces Livy's tutor and has a dark curiosity about him.  For someone who's lost her sister and is afraid of so much, Livy really gives up a lot about herself to these complete strangers.

But things pick up once we get to Neverland. And how magical it is! The world is so wondrous to envision. This was by far my favorite part of the book, spending that time in Neverland and learning the truth. The ending felt a bit predictable, but admittedly it tied up all the loose ends nicely. I feel like a lot of readers will appreciate that, especially since this is a standalone, and definitely gives a spin on the more classic interpretation of Peter.

The real strength in this novel was its accurate, to the point of painful, portrayal of grief and humanity's inherent concern for the afterlife. Those aspects rang the most true for me as a reader, and kept me invested in this story. Overall, I enjoyed reading this and think that fans of Peter and Neverland will as well. If you love Peter and are looking for a novel that represents some of the best aspects of his story, then you should check this out.

Rating: 3 / 5 stars

*I received a free advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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