Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell Review: Where Neverland is NOT the place you want to be

January 11, 2016 by Aila J. | 3 stars, ARC Reviews, Books, Reviews

Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell Review: Where Neverland is NOT the place you want to beUnhooked by Lisa Maxwell
Published by Simon Pulse on February 2, 2016
Source: Publisher, Edelweiss
Genres: Fairy Tales & Folklore, Young Adult, Romance
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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?

I absolutely loved the concept for this book! It’s intriguing, and certainly brings a dark twist to the tale Peter Pan that we all know and love. (Or do we? I’ve never read it myself.) The story starts with Gwen moving yet again because her mother is afraid of some monster that’s chasing them. Fortunately for you readers who enjoy fast-paced books (like me), the action comes soon afterwards, when both Gwen and her friend Olivia gets picked up by monsters called “The Dark Ones” and dragged to a land where nobody grows into an adult.

“‘In the world you came from, they tell tales of this place.’
His voice has gone so grave I’m almost afraid to ask, but I force myself to release the railing. ‘They do?’
‘Aye, they do.’ His dark eyes glitter as he leans in close. ‘Let me be the first to welcome you to Neverland.'”

In this story, no one is like who they are in the stories. Peter Pan, or Pan, may not be the fun guy we seem to think he is and Captain Hook has his own reasons for doing what he does. Their relationship was particularly interesting to read about, as well as how everything in Neverland came to be. Maxwell paints a twisted background to Neverland that keeps you guessing up until the very end.

When Gwen gets “saved” from Hook by the illustrious Pan, we start seeing how things are vastly different from the original story this was based off of. It seems like there might be a love triangle between her, Pan, and Hook, but rest assured that there isn’t. Gwen knows that there’s something fishy going on – especially when she realizes that Pan has Olivia under his thrall and refuses to give her back.

“There’s something about the way he looks at me that makes me think he sees something in my that no one else ever has. Like I am something whole and strong and important. Being looked at like that – being seen – is something completely new and absolutely intoxicating.
And I don’t trust it one bit.”

I loved how devoted Gwen was to saving her friend Olivia, even after Pan constantly leads them on with his lies and illusions. The romance with Hook was also well-done. It was definitely a slow-burn that started gaining momentum as each person discovered secrets about the other. But let’s be real, who wouldn’t enjoy swoony scenes with a pirate? Hook himself was a complex character that unravels as we get to know him more. We’re reminded about how “evil” he is in the book, yet his actions imply otherwise. As a retelling, Unhooked was refreshing and captivating enough to stand out on its own.

However, the word that comes out when I think about what I disliked is “more.” I wanted more background on the beautiful world of Neverland, more explanations on why certain things (especially near the end) happened, more romance wouldn’t have been bad too, but also more action from Gwen herself. The thing about her character is that for one move that was courageous and shows her spark, she is passive for two other situations – making her fall flat as a character. Have you ever read a book and a character is hesitating or stuttering and you can’t help but shout “DO SOMETHING YO”? That was me with this one. And it would have been okay if she developed in the latter half of the book, but again and again, Gwen lets her actions be carried by other factors or characters, rather than herself. I recall only one time where she actually DID something near the end – which at that point was incongruent with the rest of the times she DIDN’T do anything for the rest of the book. It was all quite frustrating for me as a reader.

This is definitely a stand-alone (in fact, the end was more conclusive than I thought it would be), so if you’re looking for a quick, fantasy fix than I’d recommend you pick this one up! Just don’t expect too much from Gwen and instead prepare to be immersed in a version of Neverland that you’ve never seen before.


Not much could deter readers from picking up this enthralling retelling of Peter Pan, except for the passive main character that gets led by the story and not the other way around. However, Gwen still shows perseverance in finding her best friend Olivia through the captivating world of Neverland, with the help of a hot pirate. This dark, imaginative rendition of Peter Pan shines a different light on characters that we thought we knew while growing up.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


Thank you Edelweiss and Simon Pulse for a review copy!

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Aila is a young adult reader who loves to transport herself to new dimensions through reading. She's currently an undergraduate student at university in the US. Let's talk about our obsessions on Twitter @aila_1woaa!

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53 responses to “Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell Review: Where Neverland is NOT the place you want to be

  1. Shannelle C.

    I love the sound of that retelling of Peter Pan! It sounds definitely creative, and while I'm not fond of passive characters and feeling the want for more when it comes to a world, I guess that can be forgiven since this is a standalone.

    • Oh definitely! I gave the world-building some leeway because of it being a standalone. Peter Pan retellings are definitely getting popular I find.

  2. This is a book I've been pretty excited about, Aila! Now, I'm not all that sure I'll enjoy it. I love Captain Hook, more so than Peter Pan! And I would love a story where his reasons are developed more. However, if Neverland has changed from what I know, I also need to understand how and why…
    Great review!
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    • Oh the author definitely mentions how! I just feel like it was a lot of info-dumps and it could have been explored a lot more. BUT, considering the fact that this is a stand-alone, I can totally understand. I totally recommend you still check this one out. 🙂 (Also especially since the romance with Hook is just sizzling!)

  3. danielleisbusyreading

    Lovely review!
    I had written this book off because I immediately thought there was a triangle… I was SO happy when I learned there wasn't! I am totally ready to swoon for a pirate. 😀
    Glad you mostly enjoyed this! I'm excited to read it soon!

  4. Lisa @ Lost in Lit

    I'm a little hesitant to read this, honestly… but I know that I will, eventually, because who can say no to a Peter Pan retelling?! 🙂 Great review!!

  5. Charnell

    Wonderful review. This sounds like an interesting read and unique take on the Peter Pan story. I just can't seem to get excited about it though, so this will probably be one that I end up skipping myself.

    • Thanks Jeann, and yup the setting was definitely the winner. I was so sad I couldn't connect to Gwen!

      Also I MUST try out Tiger Lily someday because all I hear are great things.

  6. I have recently discovered that I enjoy these slow burn pirate romances 😀 I'll keep an eye out for this one since it sounds super swoony and action-packed!

  7. I've always been ambivalent about reading Peter Pan retellings ever since I read Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson because that just blew my mind and I don't think anything can compare. BUT, this does sound amazing and I'm definitely going to have to consider giving it a try! Seeing the dark backstory to Neverland sounds fabulous. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

    • Ooh I really need to hop on the Tiger Lily train! All I hear are excellent things (for some reason I thought it would be a sad book? Lol) I hope you enjoy this one, though! The dark twists in the plot are definitely unique on its own. 🙂

  8. I had been looking forward to this one, so I am disappointed that you didn't like it more. One thing you want a LOT of with these books is world building and it sounds like it didn't have that. On the other hand, I love that it is a stand alone. How many stand alone fantasies are out there? I may still give it a chance, but I am glad you gave the heads up about these issues. Great review.
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    • Thanks Cynthia, it is my pleasure to give the heads up. 🙂 Isn't a stand alone fantasy just refreshing? I don't have to bite my nails waiting for another book and hoping that it lives up to expectations – it's just one quick and fun ride.

    • YES (Once Upon a Time Hook was soooo swoony – I kind of imagined this book's Hook as him!) I hope you enjoy this one if you end up reading it! 🙂

    • A lot of people have said they loved Never Never, so I'm surprised to hear you didn't! Either way, I agree about the many Peter Pan retellings coming out recently. I don't think I'll be picking up another anytime soon. 😛

  9. keionda

    Gwen doesn't really sound like a character I would like to get to know. I need a character with DEVELOPMENT, you know? It doesn't have to happen right off the bat but it has to happen, at least by the end of the story. Does that make sense? Gwen doesn't seem to do that at all! Although, heck yes! I totally agree about the sexy pirate thing! <3

    • I TOTALLY AGREE. Like, it would've been nice to see her change at least a little. Yet, she remained so impassive! BUT, Hook made up for the majority of her bland character. (He was amazeballs.)

  10. Bieke

    You know, I'm really curious about this one, but I recently read another Peter Pan retelling called Never Never and the cover is soooo similar! Seriously. For a while I thought it was the same book. I'm not the biggest PP fan, but I loved Never Never so I might pick this one up!

  11. amanda_gray

    Hm, can't say this sounds like my kind of thing at the moment. I was never sold on the original story all that much, not really, and as twisted and intriguing as this new Neverland sounds, I fear Gwen would be a stumbling block. Oops.. Ah well. Great review though Aila! 🙂
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  12. Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms

    I love the sound of a dark Neverland! And that romance with Hook? *swoon* I have yet to read a Peter Pan retelling I love, so I'm going to give this a try! Great review <3

  13. "DO SOMETHING YO" hahahhahah! I was afraid this would be similar to Never Never by Briana Shrum, but I'm glad this isn't the case at all. I'm almost tempted to read this because of that romance, it sounds realllllly swoony. And I love anything Peter Pan. I think I'll be able to look past Gwen's inaction (maybe). I'm glad you liked this Aila!
    My recent post I Don't Know About You, But I'm Feeling 22

    • Thanks Valerie! And I've never read Never, Never, but I don't believe it's that similar! (Although the covers sure look alike). Yesss though, Captain Hook is just SO MUCH SWOON.

  14. samoak

    This one really has me intrigued. I love the sound of it, especially the romance with Hook (pirates!). However, passive lead characters drive me absolutely insane. I'm leaning a little more towards picking this one up since it's a standalone though. Great review.
    My recent post Read it or Ditch it: Mudd in Your Eye

    • Yessss Pili, Disney certainly doesn't capture the original essence of fairy tales very well. xD I like my happy endings though!

      I totally need to pick up Never, Never too because I'm really liking this Peter Pan retelling trend! Hope you enjoy this one. 😀

  15. Kara Terzis

    Oh, the concept for this one sounds SO. GOOD–and I'm glad you liked it. I basically love aallll retellings, so fingers crossed I'll love this one. I haven't actually read many Peter Pan retellings before either, so this would be something new for me.

    • Thanks Josie! Yup, Peter Pan retellings have definitely been popping up recently. It's pretty refreshing to see this fairy tale being rewritten though!

  16. I NEED TO READ THIS SO BAD. Basically because I love all Neverland stories in general although the passive main character saddens me. And I admit I originally got this confused with another retelling…isn't it called Hooked? or something. AGH. XD The Peter Pan retellings need to work on their titling skills. 😛
    STILL. Loved this review and definitely want to read this eventually!!

    • LOL so true on the retellings front – there's another Peter Pan retelling called Never Never that has a VERY similar cover image to this one (the colors and everything). It's so hard to differentiate from them all!

      Can't wait for you to pick this one up Cait!

  17. I've been curious about this one but I've been waiting for reviews to see if I want to really read it or not. I love the sound of the slow burn romance and also the complex characterization of Hook. Both sound amazing especially. I can definitely understand you wanting more from the background though.
    Great review, Aila! I'll be sure to check it out when it comes out.
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