Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas
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.
Peter Pan is one of my favorite childhood stories, so picking up this retelling was a no-brainer, especially with the beautiful, captivating cover. This is my first Peter Pan retelling, and I had no idea what to expect. Without a doubt, this book was a pleasant surprise.
My review may contain a mild spoiler.
The story follows the main character, Wendy, through a life-changing event. As a child, Wendy spent time in the woods with her brothers, John and Michael, and they all came up missing. After a time, Wendy reappeared, but she couldn’t remember anything, and she had no idea where her brothers had disappeared to. Time moved on, and Wendy became a young adult. Now she volunteers at the local hospital aspiring to be a nurse like her mother. People still question what happened to her brothers–mainly because other children have gone missing since. Wendy’s parents are stuck; they’re workaholics and neglect her, while Wendy moved on after this tragedy–anxiety and all. Her parents have never gotten over losing the boys, and while they don’t directly blame Wendy, the vibes are there. Other people don’t seem to be accepting of Wendy’s amnesia either. Why can’t she remember what happened that day? Are her brothers still alive? Who’s kidnapping the other children in the area, and are all of these events somehow connected?
This retelling follows the original Peter Pan narrative and conflicts for the most part. The author omitted the problematic parts, built off the original narrative, and made this book quite inventive though. In this story, Peter asks for help after losing his shadow. Wendy needs help discovering what happened to her brothers and the other missing children because her depression and guilt are a heavy load to carry. They work together to solve their problems.
The premise is intriguing, the story is written well, and it kept me engaged for the most part, but while the first third of the book hooked me, the middle slowed down substantially. Eventually, it picks back up with an unpredictable ending. I liked being in the same position as Wendy: you don’t know what happened with her brothers until the very end. There were some hints in the story as to who could’ve been involved, but it’s left a mystery until everything comes together for the conclusion.
This is a fantasy, but some of the more realistic events in the book weren’t believable, especially with the police investigation. Also, Wendy’s parents were an issue for me with how they completely shut down after losing the boys too. My first response to how they acted in this story was incredulity, but everyone deals with trauma differently, and I tried to keep that in mind. I’ve never been in the position of losing a child, but I imagine some people would deal with the grief in the same way Wendy’s parents did, even when it’s incredibly damaging to others. After all, there wasn’t closure for anyone, and without help, they were all coping with this tragedy on their own. Wendy becomes the acting adult after her brothers’ disappearance. This is where some of the deeper themes came in. Wendy was just a child herself when her brothers wound up missing, and believe it or not, she considers herself having some responsibility for it. This is thought-provoking and got me thinking about some of the adult responsibilities we delegate to our children.
Another small issue I had was the romance, which felt out of place. It barely amounted to anything and could’ve been omitted altogether because it seemed weird. The ending, although not an issue, was extremely emotional for me too. This likely stems from some of my own personal feelings on childhood, growing up, letting go, and moving on after trauma, and it’s these parts of the book that were very heavy, in my opinion.
As far as the book cover: I find it stunning but somewhat deceiving because it led me to believe this was a middle-grade book. It’s geared toward young adults/teens, not that there’s any questionable content for certain age groups, but the book does explore mental illness and some deeper themes that would be better suited for older readers.
Overall, I found this retelling dark, haunting, imaginative, and emotional. It’s a story of love and loss, growing up, facing your fears, and holding onto hope. I plan to read some of the author’s other books in the future.
- Publisher : Swoon Reads (March 23, 2021)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 125031397X
- ISBN-13 : 978-1250313973
- Reading age : 13 – 18 years
- Grade level : 7 – 9
This book has been added to my 2021 Retellings Reading Challenge. To see my progress on this challenge, please click the image below.
Thanks for reading my review of Lost in the Never Woods! Have you read this book or another book by this author? Please feel free to leave your thoughts or recommendations below.