Retelling Book Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Second StarSecond Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There were so many things I really liked about this book. I loved the idea of the Peter Pan story being retold with the lost boys as a group of runaways hiding out in abandoned houses on the coast of California with surfing standing in for “flying.” And this setting was so incredibly vivid — the stand stuck to wet feet, the swell of the waves, the sun in your eyes. I could practically smell sand and the ocean as I read it. I found “Pete” and “Belle” to be especially well characterized, although some of the secondary characters less so. Also, the idea of Wendy finding “the lost boys” because she was searching for her brothers, who everyone else believed to be dead, stays truer to some of the darker interpretations of “Neverland” — such as that it is a place where the souls of people who died in childhood went.

All of those positives were enough for me to give this book four stars, because those parts were done so well. But there were things I didn’t like about it, too. I wanted to see Tiger Lily or some of the other more “fantastical” parts of Neverland through this new light. I wanted Nana to be described more fully — I could never picture her because the narrator never revealed her breed or any physical characteristics. I couldn’t figure out why most of the characters kept their original names (Pete, John, Michael, Wendy, Belle), but the “Hook” character was “Jas” instead of the perfectly acceptable “James.” I didn’t like that it devolved into a love triangle after the halfway point, either (seriously, is it now a REQUIREMENT for YA to feature love trianges?!?), even if the descriptions of early love were as vivid as the descriptions of sand and surf.

And then there is the ending. Ah, the ending. I really loved it … at first. It was a little ambiguous, but it threw out some intriguing possibilities that I was content to leave open. Then it tried to “have it both ways” by tossing an answer in the final couple pages, and I feel like the ending was really weakened as a result. But I’m starting to learn that other people are not nearly as tolerant of open-ended finales as I am, so the ultimate ending feels a bit to me like a forced issue. For others, it might be what redeems the book.

It gets a passing grade on the two criteria I often use to judge retellings, too, which is that it stays true enough to the original, and also brings something truly new to the table.

View all my reviews