"Lost in the Never Woods" review
Title: Lost in the Never Woods
Author: Aiden Thomas
2021 Bingo squares: Published in 2021, Latinx author, Forest setting, Chapter titles
Recommend: No, read the spoilers though because the ending was cool
The premise is compelling - A “Peter Pan” retelling with an adult Wendy whose brothers never returned from Neverland with her - but the execution is anything but. The majority of Lost in the Never Woods takes place in the “real world,” a quiet, boring town that was disrupted several years ago when Wendy and her brothers disappeared for several months and only Wendy returned. The rest takes place in the nearby woods. None of it takes place in, you know, Neverland.
To make matters worse, the primary tension revolves around Wendy lying to her best friend Jordan, her family, and the local police department about what she’s doing (sneaking off with Peter Pan into the forest to look for his shadow). The excursions into the forest themselves are bland and tensionless, and without fail they never advance the plot in any meaningful way. If you removed all fantastical elements you would be left with “girl sneaks off with teenage crush” and have an equally exciting story.
In the background to this lack of any advancement of the get-Peter-Pan’s-shadow-back narrative, there’s a subplot about whether Wendy should become a doctor instead of a nurse; Jordan is trying to convince her to be a doctor. Jordan, by the way, is an extremely flat character whose personality consists of “be a role model for Wendy” and “care about Wendy.” And Wendy spends the entire book lying to her.
Why did I give this book two stars instead of one? Well, the premise that’s revealed in the ending is pretty cool. Really cool. It’s a great twist on the original myth, and it’s super disappointing to me that the way we got there was so uninspired, because another novel supporting this premise could have been one of the best stories of the year. So, after the cover I’ll spoil the ending for you, and you can appreciate how excellent it is.
So the premise ends up being that Wendy’s brothers were both shot and killed in front of her in the forest by her neighbor in a hunting accident. Peter Pan is a spirit that ushers souls to the afterlife, but Wendy was so traumatized by this event that he agreed to take her as well. Neverland is basically purgatory, and she remained with her brothers there for six months; however, Neverland can’t support living souls, and so he had to return her to life/reality. She needs to let go of her brothers so they can move on to the afterlife properly.
This entire time, the neighbor has been treating her extra nice and tipping her a lot for babysitting his kids. He also turned in his guns after the accident and stopped hunting, but he never confessed to the crimes. Now that Wendy remembers the events, he’s arrested, and her family can start to heal.
Pretty cool twist on the myth.
(Except, she goes off to college and sees signs of Peter Pan still. So she hasn’t completely moved on…and this is portrayed as a positive thing somehow…? Yeah not sure about that one.)