by Anna Katmore
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Why is there a boy who doesn’t want to grow up? How can an apple start the sweetest romance in fairytale history? And what does a ruthless pirate have to do with it all?
Angelina McFarland loves reading fairytales. But she never dreamed of falling right into one herself. That’s exactly what happens when she slips on her balcony and a flying Peter Pan catches her mid-fall.
Ending up in Neverland where no one seems to age and laws of nature are out of control, Angel has no idea how to get home. Worse, the ruthless Captain Hook captures her and keeps her trapped on his ship, the Jolly Roger, where she gets caught between the lines of a timeless battle. But the more time Angel spends with the captain, the more she sees beneath his ruthless façade.
As Angel desperately tries to find a way to return to her real life, she discovers a train ticket to London in her pocket. It won’t be any help in getting off the island, but as her memory fades away the longer she stays, this is all she has left to remind her of her former life and why she can’t give up trying.
Or is staying in Neverland forever the better choice after all?
(synopsis from Goodreads)
Foiled by a Goodreads rating again! I really wanted to like this Peter Pan retelling, and I thought I would. The reviews are, for the most part, good. But, once again, I'm left scratching my head and wondering if I missed something. How can something this bad generate so much praise?
First, I have to give credit where credit is due. The author had the nugget of a good idea here. She switched things up a little and gave Peter and Hook a bit of a different relationship than what we're used to seeing. It could have been a really interesting dynamic... but some of her other choices really didn't work.
In this version of the story, we've got a nineteen-year-old Captain Hook (presumably so he can be a suitable insta-love interest for the seventeen-year-old heroine). I found that pretty unbelievable. And then, to make matters worse, Hook isn't even the ruthless one-handed pirate we all know and love. He's a watered-down, touchy-feely teenager who's so sexy that Angel can't stop thinking about him. Why bother using these characters as a basis for the story if you're going to strip them of everything that makes them who they are?
After the first few chapters from Angel's point of view, we're treated to switching points of view between Angel and Hook. The problem is that they both speak exactly the same way, down to using similar metaphors. The only difference is that Hook swears constantly. And these are not the swears you'd expect from a pirate. These are full-on, can't-air-during-primetime swears that sound more like they're coming out of a 21st-century teenager's mouth than a 19th-century pirate's. I found it to be a pretty lazy way of differentiating the characters, and when Hook wasn't swearing, I kept forgetting whose point of view I was reading; that's how similar they were.
There were also so many, many problems with... well, everything. Angel is supposed to have lived in London, England all her life... but she talks about eating fries and wearing tennis shoes and a sweater. I'm not English, but I'm pretty sure she would've been talking about chips, trainers, and a jumper. The Lost Boys have things like zippers (is there a zipper factory in Neverland?) and Peter Pan even wears a t-shirt with a pocket on the chest (maybe they have The Gap, too). Then there were the things that just didn't make physical sense... like when Angel steals a knife and hides it in her pocket:
I don't take another minute to think, just a moment to hide the silver dagger in the side pocket of my dress. It's too long and the tip of the blade stands out, so I cover it by sliding my hand into the pocket, too.
No, she didn't cut her hand to ribbons. I really don't know how she managed not to unintentionally kill herself since she tried to stow a knife in her pocket with the blade facing out and then stuck her hand in there as well!
The author is Austrian, and the writing is actually not all that bad in places (especially considering English might not be her first language). But there were a few slip-ups, such as when Angel looked simultaneously forlorn and full of hope. I'm not sure if that's even possible. The writing was also very, very casual in places. At times, I felt like I was reading something like a blog rather than a book. I don't like seeing the word "helluva" in fiction unless the character's unique voice calls for it; this particular one's didn't.
My biggest complaint, however, was that for much of the last quarter of the book, it's nothing but making out. Angel and Hook can't keep their hands off each other. It's tongues and fingers and touching and groping and nestling and nuzzling, all culminating in something much more adult than the cute little cover suggests. I didn't find it romantic or titillating. Actually, I found it all pretty awkward because I felt like I was reading a fantasy that someone had written in their diary.
While the spark for a really interesting Peter Pan retelling was there, it was, unfortunately, just that: a spark. Weak writing, weak characters, and a weak plot left me frustrated. Even the cliffhanger ending doesn't make me want to read more.
Overall: 1.43 out of 5