Author: Brianna Shrum
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling
Source: Spencer Hill via Netgalley
James Hook is a child who only wants to grow up.Review by Nara
When he meets Peter Pan, a boy who loves to pretend and is intent on never becoming a man, James decides he could try being a child—at least briefly. James joins Peter Pan on a holiday to Neverland, a place of adventure created by children’s dreams, but Neverland is not for the faint of heart. Soon James finds himself longing for home, determined that he is destined to be a man. But Peter refuses to take him back, leaving James trapped in a world just beyond the one he loves. A world where children are to never grow up.
But grow up he does.
And thus begins the epic adventure of a Lost Boy and a Pirate.
This story isn’t about Peter Pan; it’s about the boy whose life he stole. It’s about a man in a world that hates men. It’s about the feared Captain James Hook and his passionate quest to kill the Pan, an impossible feat in a magical land where everyone loves Peter Pan.
In the era of retellings, one book that can't be missed out on is of course Peter Pan. I remember first reading Peter Pan and thinking that it really wasn't much like the Disney movie. While the backbone of the story was the same as the movie, there were definitely darker undertones which could be further explored in a retelling: and that's exactly what Never Never aims to do.
Unfortunately, the big place where Never Never falls is the pacing, which really wasn't the best. I found myself putting the book down quite a bit due to boredom. One of the reasons for this was that there was quite heavy dialogue. Coupled with a child-like, fairytale feel to the narrative voice, this meant that there was a heck of a lot of telling rather than showing. The story itself was pretty slow as well, and now that I look back on the book, I'm not quite sure why it was so long. The plot could be summed up by "Pan lies to James and brings him to Neverland, James doesn't approve of Pan's killing of pirates, James grows up, James and Pan fight a ridiculous number of times because James can't kill Pan for some reason or another".
You see as Captain Hook goes from a dreaming boy to hard-hearted man, and it's quite interesting following his slow corruption. You can see how after various events, James becomes more disillusioned and more obsessed with killing Pan. It's interesting because while you can see Pan is obviously not the hero of the story, James kind of isn't either. I mean, there's not really a "good guy"; they're both flawed in one way or another.
While certainly an ambitiously dark retelling of Peter Pan, I feel like Never Never doesn't quite reach the mark in several areas. However, it's still worth a read if you'd like to read a darker book where moral ambiguity is a theme of focus.
World Building: 3/5