YA Weekend: Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell

A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

UnhookedUnhooked by Lisa Maxwell

Mogsy’s Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Simon Pulse (February 2, 2016)

Length: 342 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Once again I was unable to resist the temptation of a book inspired by Peter Pan. It’s almost a knee-jerk reaction at this point, whether it turns out for good or for ill. I have to say though, I had high hopes for Lisa Maxwell’s Unhooked when I first heard about it, with its blurb that hinted at such a different and unique vision. Because it offered such a cool new twist on Neverland unlike anything I’d seen before, I’d hoped this would mean something more than just another retelling, but in the end I was disappointed. This book could have gone in new directions, with virtually thousands of possibilities to explore, but all that potential was ultimately misspent on flat characters and superficial relationships.

What’s worse is that the beginning of this novel showed so much promise. Seventeen-year-old Gwendolyn Allister has just arrived in London with her mother, a rather unstable woman who believes monsters are after her and her daughter. The two of them have bounced around the globe, never settling down in one place for long, but at least this time, Gwendolyn has her best friend Olivia along for moral support.

However, that first night in their dingy new flat, the two teens are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and are whisked off to a strange new land. Gwen, separated from Olivia, discovers that this place is called Neverland, like in the storybooks. But to her dismay, everything she thought she knew about those tales is a lie. The dashing pirate captain who claims to have rescued her is nothing like the Captain Hook she pictured in her mind, and the horrible things she hears about Peter Pan makes the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up sound more like the villain than a hero. The fairies are also nothing like Tinkerbell, but are actually frightening beings out of nightmare called the Dark Ones. Suddenly, Gwen’s mother doesn’t sound so crazy anymore. And worst of all, the longer Gwen stays in Neverland, the more her memories start to slip away. If she can’t figure out a way to find Olivia and escape this world, she might not even remember the home she comes from.

The best thing about Unhooked is the idea that the Captain and Pan are simply agents caught on opposite sides of a much bigger conflict—the one fought between the Dark Ones. The scary fairies are the ones playing both sides in order to get what they want, and what they want is Gwen because there is an important secret about her, something that she has no idea about. But therein also lies one of the biggest problems I had with this book. Simply put, Gwen’s ignorance makes her a helpless victim for much of the story, unable to exert any control over her fate like a leaf blown on the wind. I can’t even blame her for most of the disastrous decisions she makes, because what could she have done differently, being kept in the dark? Literally, the first thing the Captain does is to shut Gwen up in a room without deigning to explain anything. For her own good, probably. Even frightened and confused though, Gwen’s response to this mistreatment is the first stirrings of attraction for this intimidating stranger with a bionic arm who has locked her up for days and refused to answer any of her perfectly reasonable questions. When your instalove looks a lot like Stockholm syndrome, no thank you.

The real slap in the face though, was the unfortunate way Gwen and Olivia’s relationship played out. I love seeing strong, supportive female friendships in YA, and my spirits were lifted by Liv’s kindness and loyalty to Gwen at the beginning at the novel when our protagonist needed it the most. It really broke my heart to see a boy get between them in Neverland, even if the rift was caused by said boy’s special magic; I just wished we could have seen more of the two girls working together, especially since I found the story behind their friendship so intriguing. I was really bummed by the end of the book and thought Liv’s role was rather wasted.

All told, I was never truly able feel connected to Gwen and her relationships because I felt so little depth in her and the other characters. The Captain was probably the best written out of all of them and mostly because he had the advantage of a mini-backstory you could piece together at the beginning of each chapter, but the rest of the characters are very two-dimensional. The story also left me cold. This tale of Peter Pan and Neverland could have been so different and special, but it didn’t quite capture my imagination even with some of the very neat ideas in here, which I wish had been better executed. To be honest, Unhooked wasn’t all bad, but with so many retellings out there, it simply didn’t stand out as much as it could have, and these days I just can’t help being pickier.


Mogsy 2

27 Comments on “YA Weekend: Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell”

  1. Boys getting inbetween a previously strong friendship is horseshit and lazy drama fodder, so I’ll probably veer clear of this book. What a waste of an intriguing premise D: Thanks for your honest review!


    • Yes, thank you aentee, it IS horseshit and I get so upset when I see such drama! I want to see more strong female friendships in YA, and to see one start out with such promise only to have it be poisoned like that is just ARRGH! 😦


  2. Oh Peter Pan, I totally understand you, I would have been super curious too! I haven’t tried a retelling bout him yet but I’m sorry that it wasn’t more than that in the end it’s complicated when you can’t connect


  3. Bummer that this one didn’t work out because it does sound like a great set-up. Telling a story where the reader knows more than the MC, either deliberately or because it’s using popular tropes, is very hard to do well. When it’s not done well it is one of my bigger pet peeves and it sounds like that may have been one of the problems here?


    • There were multiple issues here, but I think I was most disappointed with the characters and the relationships. Ah well, hopefully my next Peter Pan retelling will be better, because I’m sure there will be more and I will be reading 🙂


  4. Oh too bad. I always think when I hear about storylines like this where friendships are destroyed because of a boy, the author is simply mimicking real life, which unfortunately happens that way sometimes. But that doesn’t mean we want to read about it.


  5. Yeah. I’ll probably skip this book, too. :/

    Peter Pan retellings and nautical / pirate stories seem to be the latest trends in YA fantasy, don’t they? It’s not a bad thing, IMO. It’s just something I noticed due to some of the new books that have come out recently (The Girl From Everywhere, Blackhearts, last year’s Never Never, and now this one).


    • No, I really wanted a copy – and I think (but could be wrong) that I saw it on Edelweiss – I thought I’d requested it but it’s not on my page either pending or declined so I must have been having a dizzy moment! Or maybe I was just wearing my sensible hat that day. Or maybe the fairies just magicked my request away! Who knows! But, tl:dr – nope, no copy for me! And I’m so glad you vetted it – a thousand thanks 😀 This is what blogger buddies are all about 😀 😀
      I don’t have Blackhearts either – although, now I think about it – I may have had these books on one of my Top Ten Tuesdays?


  6. Pingback: Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

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