Lost in the Neverwoods
Updated: Jul 16, 2021
Rating - ⭐⭐1/2
"When children go missing in the small coastal town of Astoria, people look to Wendy for answers.
It's been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.
Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don't do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what's waiting for her in the woods."
Lost in the Neverwoods is a standalone YA fantasy retelling of Peter Pan by Aidan Thomas.
As a retelling, the first thing I always ask myself after finishing is, 'did this successfully bring a new twist to a classic tale?' And that answer is, unfortunately, no, and here are all the reasons why I think so.
It is hard to retell a story that is loved by many and has been retold countless times before. Needless to say, there wasn't a lot of room for creativity when it comes to this story, and you can see that here. There was nothing really new and exciting in this. I felt like it was stuck halfway between the original story and the Peter Pan storyline from Once Upon A Time which left very little room for anything different.
There were also moments in this that reminded me of other stories outside of Peter Pan as well. Wendy unknowingly drawing a tree reminds me of Lydia drawing the Nemeton in Teen Wolf or Clary drawing the shadowhunter symbol in the City of Bones movie. So even the differences weren't really that original.
There was really not a lot of substance in this book. Half of it was spent on Wendy constantly denying the reality she is in, while the other half went a bit off the rails. There were a lot of scenes in this that I didn't think were imperative to the story in any way and acted as a distraction that took me out of the story.
I also found that there was a lot of talking and no doing. Something would happen and all Wendy would do is get angry and shout and ask questions. No progress was actually made until the very end of the book.
Up until the end though, I was hovering around a 3-star rating because this wasn't particularly bad, but then the twist was revealed, and it was not a good one. It completely derailed the story for me and there was no going back after that.
It is a familiar story, so the world-building isn't very strong in this. It takes place in modern day Oregon (and not England for some reason) but the only big difference is the forest by her house. I'm not entirely sure that basing most of the story around this forest was the best way to go as it wasn't anything spectacular.
Out of everything in this book, I think the underlying themes are what was done best. What I took away from this story was that this was a roundabout way to depict trauma and mental illness and the courage it takes to overcome it even when fear is trying to consume you.
This is shown through the shadow, which was described as inducing dark thoughts that devour a person and make their happiness go away. It also makes you feel isolated and alone and can take away your energy.
Unfortunately, the method by which these themes are conveyed is less than satisfactory. The story just bogs down the message for me.
Our main characters are, of course, Wendy and Peter. I found that I didn't particularly like either of them as they felt very surface level. There was not much further development with their characters beyond what is known from the original story. The only difference really was that Wendy and Peter were older and Wendy has to deal with trauma, amnesia, and mental health issues.
Speaking of amnesia, I think I found out that I really don't like that trope, at all. Amnesia is an incredibly frustrating trope to have to read about as Wendy spends half of the book denying everything that is happening. The addition of amnesia also reminds me of Alice in Wonderland, as in many iterations she doesn't remember going to Wonderland as a child.
Diving further into Wendy's characterization, it is really driven home the fact that she is described as being 'plain'. Plain enough that she compared herself to vanilla ice cream at one point. I really don't like it when the word 'plain' is used as a descriptor for a character. Either the author decided to do the least amount effort in making their character interesting, or it is used as a way to show that in the end, they were special the entire time.
Moving on to Peter, I was okay with his character for the most part, except for the fact that he was rather careless. Children are going missing and he was off doing who knows what. He also knew that he had to conserve his magic because it was being drained from him, but then he uses his magic all willy nilly and drains it himself. I don't really know what his thought process was throughout this entire book.
And of course, a new addition to the story would be the romance. I saw it coming from the start and hoped that it wouldn't happen, but it did. I felt weirdly uncomfortable with the romance. It may be because even though Peter doesn't age (so who knows how old he really is), he is still technically a kid while Wendy is 18. It was also insta-love which never works for me.
As for the villain of the story, the shadow, he felt kind of comically bad. He didn't feel like a fully fleshed-out character, he felt like a means for Wendy to move past her trauma and guilt. He was also used as an info-dump in order to explain everything that was going on.
Finally, another new addition to the story was Wendy's best friend Jordan, and I don't know why she was included at all. She added pretty much nothing to the story and probably should have been left out.
Overall, this was not manage to veer away from 'been there and done that' even with the liberties it took to move away from the original story. The overall plot and character development were weak and the story suffered because of poor plot direction.
Who would I recommend this to? If you are a fan of retellings then I would still give this a shot. Just because I do not particularly like them doesn't mean you won't either. If you go into this expecting it to be full of childlike wonder like the original tale, then you might be disappointed with what you find.