Ten years ago, Peter Pan left Neverland to grow up, leaving behind his adolescent dreams of boyhood and resigning himself to life as Wendy Darling. Growing up, however, has only made him realize how inescapable his identity as a man is.
But when he returns to Neverland, everything has changed: the Lost Boys have become men, and the war games they once played are now real and deadly. Even more shocking is the attraction Peter never knew he could feel for his old rival, Captain Hook—and the realization that he no longer knows which of them is the real villain.
Oh, I really wanted to love this book, but I feel like it fell short for me in a couple of ways. Now, I still think there’s a lot of great stuff in this one, we read it for our HEA Book Club over on r/fantasy and quite a few people loved it, so I definitely think it’s a case of expectations and personal pet peeves which made this one not quite a fit for me.
There are some things in this book that I don’t want to spoil because they’re not given away in the blurb. I’ll say this though, it was really great revisiting these familiar characters, with a bit of a twist. The author utilizes the character of Peter to explore gender identity and I really loved that we get a trans main character here. I appreciated Peter’s struggle, not with himself because he knows who he is, but with the people and the world around him and how they want to box him into something he isn’t. This is a bit different from the journey of self-discovery that I usually love in stories, but that isn’t to say that Peter has everything figured out. Oh no, far from it. He’s kind of a big old mess. Baggage for days.
The use of the Neverland setting as escapism, as somewhere you go and make the world the way you want it to be, fits really great with the overall themes of the story and what both of the main characters are going through. They both have things they’re hiding, things they don’t want others to know about their past selves. I have to say that I really felt for Peter at one point, not wanting to give that world up because it’s the one place he’s felt he’s truly been allowed to be himself. But, Neverland is still not the real world and can you ever really be happy there if everything is made up?
So, I loved the themes, I loved Peter’s struggles once we got to know him a bit, I even came to love James Hook by the end of the story. What went wrong? Well, let’s talk about the characters for a bit. Peter Pan is kind of a jerk. Well, not kind of, he really is a jerk. I think the author did an awesome job reminding me just what an insufferable selfish prat Peter Pan can be! But honestly I spent much of the book being annoyed with Peter the times when I wasn’t empathizing with him. And it took me a while to empathize, that came later, because at first he was so very, very, annoying. Enter Hook. He’s also annoying. The whole constant rivalry between them felt stupid and forced like ‘well, we hate each other and we have to annihilate each other because it’s what we do!’. Which, to be fair, was probably the point. They both had so much to work out and Neverland bing what it is and how it works. Still! I couldn’t help but be annoyed especially when innocent people got dragged into their nonsense. Stop dragging people into your nonsense, that’s selfish and rude!
Also, I went into this expecting romance, and it’s there, but it took entirely too long to get going in my book. They could have fought slightly less and started bonding a bit earlier and I think it would have worked better for me, but again, this is personal preference I think — a lot of other people didn’t have an issue with that. (What can I say, I’m picky!)
By far my favorite part of the book was the ending. Some of the loveliest bits of writing, the rawest bits, were the real moments between the characters once they’re truly faced with each other for the first time. It was like warm hugs all around and I loved that bit. I wish we had been able to get more of that! The ending was just a perfect bit of sweetness. I wish I had loved the rest of the book as much as I did those last few pages. 3.5/5 stars.