#WyrdAndWonder YA Weekend: Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 2.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Swoon Reads | Macmillan Audio (March 23, 2021)
Length: 384 pages | 12 hrs and 14 mins
Narrator: Avi Roque
My YA burnout continues, and I think that’s where a lot of my reluctance to pick up even books with stories that look interesting to me, but I thought for sure I couldn’t go wrong with a dark Peter Pan retelling. Well, guess I was wrong. It’s not that Lost in the Never Woods was a bad story, but it was completely unremarkable, and it just doesn’t stand out or feel unique enough.
Wendy Darling has just turned eighteen. It has been five years since she and her brothers Michael and John went into the woods near their house, but only Wendy walked out months later, with no memory of what happened or any idea where the boys could be. Her amnesia and confusion were chalked up to trauma, and despite the efforts of the authorities, no traces of her brothers were ever found.
But now, children in their local community are going missing again, bringing Michael and John’s disappearance back into the public eye. The renewed interest in the case has put a strain on the family, especially on Wendy, who retreats into her artwork in an attempt to forget the past. When she and her brothers were younger, their mother always told them stories about Peter Pan, and lately Wendy has been sketching the boy who never grew up, imagining in her head what he might look like. The last thing she expected though, was to actually meet him in the flesh. But that is exactly what happens, as Wendy drives home one night and almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road. Rushing out to help, she is shocked when she sees his face clearly and realizes it’s the same one that she has been drawing in her sketchbook for months.
Like I said, Lost in the Never Woods may begin with a good hook, but unfortunately the spark itself never materializes. We spend way too much time establishing Wendy’s life at the hospital volunteering with her best friend, sitting through a bunch of contrived and canned conversations between the two teenage girls. Things start looking up a bit once Peter enters the picture and readers get to catch the first few hints on a possible villain, but then they slow to crawl again as we fall right back into autopilot and continue down the path of mediocrity. The romance is completely paint-by-numbers, and Peter’s cutesy pseudo-charming demeanor also felt really cringey and forced at times.
The ending was just about the only thing I liked, because with those revelations the story came through on its promise of darkness. In fact, when the truth finally hit, the utter devastation of it was kind of jarring, given the overall lighter tone of the novel. It’s like, holy crap, the author actually went and did that! Wow and yay! Despite being totally blindsided, I’m still pleased things turned out that way, giving the conclusion its much needed weight and focus.
Of course, whether it was enough to make up for the lackluster parts of the book is another matter. In fact, I think there are some poignant themes in this book, like messages about growing up or the futility of holding on to the negative emotions of the past, but most of it gets lost in the noise of the more banal, melodramatic YA tropes.
It’s too bad, really, because Lost in the Never Woods could have been so much more. Certain aspects of the story and characters just seemed too shallow and unpolished, and I can only truly recommend this for dedicated fans of Peter Pan retellings who may wish to read every single one they can get their hands on. Otherwise, there are probably better ones out there more worthy of your time and attention.