Welcome to my stop on the book tour for Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas!
When children go missing, people want answers. 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.
AIDEN THOMAS is a New York Times Bestselling author with an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. Originally from Oakland, California, they now make their home in Portland, Oregon. As a queer, trans Latinx, Aiden advocates strongly for diverse representation in all media. Aiden’s special talents include: quoting The Office, winning Jenga, finishing sentences with “is my FAVORITE”, and killing spiders. Aiden is notorious for not being able to guess the endings of books and movies, and organizes their bookshelves by color.
After the complete joy of Cemetery Boys, one of my top 2020 reads, I immediately requested to read this new novel. Typically, I am not the greatest fan of Peter Pan as it is just not a tale I gravitate towards, however, I was extremely curious to read a retelling as they are few and far-between. Lost in the Never Woods takes the story of Peter Pan and gives it a modern twist with a darker undertone. It was a very entertaining read with an unbelievably gorgeous cover that immediately pulls you in before you even read a synopsis.
Wendy Darling is turning 18 and has just graduated high school in Astoria, Oregon. She volunteers at the local hospital performing any task given to her, but she loves to be with the children there. She has current plans to become a nurse after university, but has some inkling to possibly go further and become a doctor, although she is very unsure she wants to go that far. She is brought back to a tragic memory of her past as some children have started to go missing. Five years ago, Wendy herself went missing along with her brothers, Michael and John. After only Wendy returned, Michael and John remain lost and Wendy has no memory of anything that happened during this dark time. With these new disappearances, Wendy’s feelings are consumed again by the trauma from her past. She feels connected to the missing children and wants more than anything for them to be found safely.
On her way home from the hospital one day, she meets a boy lying in the road. His name is Peter and he bears a striking resemblance to a boy she thought only existed in stories. Peter Pan exists in the real world and is not just a made-up tale that she heard in her mother’s bedtime stories. He needs her help to rescue the missing children and to solve the mystery behind these disappearances. The two of them form an alliance and hopefully they can eventually find the mysterious villain. The need to find the villain becomes more intense as one more child disappears after another and Wendy seems to be a person of interest as she is the only one to have disappeared and returned. The police are convinced that Wendy knows more than she is letting on, but unfortunately she cannot remember anything from the time she was missing.
Peter is a true gem of a character as he is experience his own changes due to the disappearances, but he does not let it fully affect the child-like, innocent, and curious character that everyone is familiar with from other tales. Wendy was a good lead character as she connects the magical world of Peter to the real world. Similar to other versions, Wendy and Peter share a special bond where they each are connected to the other in a way that’s hard for either of them to completely explain. One thing I did wish was included is some backstory into Peter and what he was up to since he and Wendy parted five years ago.
The story runs through the day to day as Wendy tries to continue her life without rousing suspicion about Peter’s true identity and the want to find the missing children. The pace does slow down a little in the middle as there is a lot of discussion between the characters and not a lot of action. Once the latter half of the book begins, the pace picks up a lot as the plot intensifies to the rousing conclusion. In addition to Wendy’s trauma from her past, the reader experiences her parents’ emotions as they have an extreme fear that something will happen again to Wendy and they want to protect her at all costs. This is countered by the fact that they are also semi-absentee parents as they still have grief from the loss of John and Michael. It is a story that goes through a lot of emotions that brings the reader to a both heart-breaking and heart-warming conclusion as it is a roller coaster from start to finish.
The heavy material is handled well in the writing and is balanced with some light and humorous moments that bring some joy to the darker themes. The aftermath of Wendy, Michael, and John’s disappearance is well-done in how it affected Wendy, her mother, and her father in different ways as it gives a nice overview of how a single event can have different lasting affects in an individual and no two will deal with it in the same way. There is a lot of sympathy without judgement for the family and I liked the way it was portrayed as it seemed fairly authentic. (Having not gone through these events myself, I cannot judge fully if I find it accurate or not.) The romance between Wendy and Peter was done naturally as the two of them are connected from the time they first met, but they are still getting reacquainted now that Peter has shown up in Wendy’s life again. To me, their story was written more as a growing connection than a typical romance, but it was captivating to read about every time the two spent time together. This story is an excellent young adult novel that is perfect for fans of retellings and, especially, those of Peter Pan. While this novel was different to Cemetery Boys, it was a very enjoyable read, overall, and I would gladly pick up any works from Aiden Thomas in the future!
**I give a special thank you to Giselle with Xpresso Book Tours for the opportunity to participate via Netgalley with this excellent and entertaining novel from the publisher, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, Swoon Reads. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**
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