The Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse
Published May 9, 2016 by Clean Teen Publishing, 302 pp.
Copy provided by Clean Teen Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Magic can do a lot—give you flight, show you mermaids, help you taste the stars, and… solve the budget crisis? That’s what the grown-ups will do with it if they ever make it to Neverland to steal its magic and bring their children home.
However, Gwen doesn’t know this. She’s just a sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a powerful crush on Jay, the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn’t know her little sister could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that she might have to chase after her to bring her home safe. Gwen will find out though—and when she does, she’ll discover she’s in the middle of a looming war between Neverland and reality.
She’ll be out of place as a teenager in Neverland, but she won’t be the only one. Peter Pan’s constant treks back to the mainland have slowly aged him into adolescence as well. Soon, Gwen will have to decide whether she’s going to join impish, playful Peter in his fight for eternal youth… or if she’s going to scramble back to reality in time for the homecoming dance.
Ahh that cover. If only I could love the book as much as I love that cover.
The Neverland Wars feels a bit incomplete – a lot of loose ends are left, and I still have so many questions, the foremost being: how in the world do “adults” transmute magic and funnel it into the “real world”? The last time I heard and read the word “transmute” was when I was a huge fan of Fullmetal Alchemist and suddenly it pops up here without a concrete explanation.
Also, I’m trying out a new-ish review format, so if you don’t feel like reading through this review, there’s a handy summary at the bottom! 😀 Skip to TL;DR, haha.
The Neverland Wars is a Peter Pan retelling, or at least based on the story of Peter Pan, and is about Gwen and Rosemary, sisters who go on an adventure in Neverland, and learn some things about “reality” along the way. Rosemary disappears one night, and the police that show up the next day aren’t quite the ones that patrol the streets during the day – instead they gather dust from Rosemary’s room, and question her father about his work. It turns out her father isn’t an insurance salesman – he gathers magic from various sources around the world, and funnels them into real-world processes, like technology and the economy. Thus begins Gwen’s constant questioning of reality, what becoming an adult really means (don’t we all), and if she really needs to age to grow up. When the time comes to go back to “reality”, will Gwen choose to stay in Neverland, or resign herself to the possibility that she’s too old for it?
Honestly, this is kind of all over the place – it picks up one storyline, leaves that for a while, then picks up another, explores that a bit, and then by the end the loose ends are all unresolved and a lot of components of the plot go unexplored. The magical realism part, for one, doesn’t go fully explained. There’s a love triangle that is started, but that just kind of gets left up in the air. There’s an Antoine de Saint-Exupéry cameo near the end. And probably the biggest chunk of my puzzle that is this book: WHERE IS THE WAR???
A huge chunk of the book is spent with Rosemary and Gwen in Neverland, where they bond with the Lost Boys, meet the mermaids, and the redskins, and encounter a crocodile. All this time, there’s a kind of build-up to a war – a tracker on the crocodile, a tree stump felled by an electrical storm of sorts from beyond – but nothing happens. The most that happens is a “reality storm”, where newspaper headlines find themselves in Neverland and it serves as kindling for bombs. Peter goes on the trail of someone who could potentially help them win the war – but again, where is the war? And who was this person again?
Another plot point I’d like to dwell on is the fact that in this Gwen’s “reality”, magic is what basically keeps everything going, from the cellphones:
“Well, think about your smartphone.”
“But that’s not magic,” Gwen insisted. “That’s technology.”
“Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology,” her father told her. “It usually takes about ten or twenty years for science to catch up to magic. Scientists are just starting to understand how cell phones are constructed. Until now, they’ve been relying on magic to carry the signals and power the devices. […]”
To the economy:
“What about it?”
“We’re more than 18 trillion dollars in debt. Don’t you think it’s a little odd that a country so beyond bankruptcy continues to function and prosper as well as the United States?”
And her father explains this by saying there are people who capture magic and channel it into the bureaucracy of the government.
There’s also the reality of Santa Claus but let’s skip that. The thing is, how the fuck?? How do you take something that has no currency (that is explained of) or no real world equivalent like magic and translate it into real world terms and make it so that it keeps the economy afloat? How do you assign value? How?? Am I supposed to accept this because ~*~magic~*~??
I would also like to add, that apparently magic is in limited supply (as it is with everything) here in reality, but “adults” continue to attack the place wherein magic is in supply aka Neverland. What? Why?
This is actually a pretty quick read, because despite the chapter count (48 chapters!) the chapters themselves are pretty short, and something happens in each one, even if they aren’t anything earth-shattering or exciting. The book doesn’t really take off for me, but the Neverland portions are what I like best because I do love the imagery, and are thankfully a huge chunk of the book.
Gwen as a protagonist is okay – she’s a typical teenager, but somehow, in a Peter Pan retelling, it’s Peter Pan that is devoid of any personality and fun. I don’t remember anything about him aside from the fact that he tosses out orders every now and then, and that he is supposed to be a love interest of Gwen.
If there are any memorable characters, it’s the mermaids in the lagoon. They’re the ones that I remember best, with their fondness for fruits, mirrors, and well of knowledge that comes at a price.
There’s also an attempt at romance, I think, but it’s easily overlooked – like the Gwen x Peter ship didn’t quite set sail, and the Gwen x Jay one didn’t have enough space. The solid hint I got that there was supposed to be something was in the form of a reading by a fortuneteller:
“I see two others, deeply knit into the fabric of your future. They are a boy and a man… both of whom you will love.”
Again, where?? I only briefly encounter Jay in the beginning, and Peter and her barely speak to each other. Both of her “relationships” with them don’t really go anywhere.
Overall, there are interesting parts, like the magical realism and how it can be incorporated into the “real world”, but they aren’t given enough focus. Like the author started it, and forgot to wrap it up. I think I would’ve liked this better if it focused on one aspect, rather than incorporating so much into one book – either push how magic is used in the real world, or the Neverland war. Because as it is, it’s like the book is being pulled in a different directions and you don’t know where it’s supposed to go.
I was actually expecting this to be a series, since it feels a bit unresolved. At least by the end Gwen knows where she wants to go, and where she wants to stay.
3. I’m rounding it out from 2.5! Also, if you skipped ahead, have no fear, here’s a handy summary of my review:
Interesting plot, honestly, but the way it was executed did not appeal to me.
Gwen is your typical teenager, but how can you make Peter Pan so lifeless and without fun?! +1 star for the mermaids and Rosemary.
There is none, but there was an attempt at a love triangle.
Have you guys read other Peter Pan retellings? I’m always open to suggestions, lol, and was the review summary helpful? Y/n? Let me know!