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!