Author: Colleen Oakes
Series: Wendy Darling, #1
**I received a copy of this book through NetGalley which does not affect my review **
Wendy Darling is sixteen years old and in love, but Wendy also knows her parents will never approve of a courtship with the bookseller’s son, Booth. Then one night while her parents are attending a ball, Peter Pan happens upon the Darling nursery. Unable to resist the pull of Neverland, Wendy and her brothers embark on an adventure with the mysterious Peter Pan. Everything is fun and games until Wendy realizes that her memories have become a blur and Peter’s adventures turn out to be more dangerous than the children first realized.
Although Colleen Oakes first novel in her Wendy Darling series gives a more in depth look at the setting of Neverland, the story and characters are not compelling enough to warrant another retelling of this classic children’s tale. Perhaps part of the reason I found myself not enjoying this book is how far it strays from the traditional depiction of many of the characters. While Mr. Darling is usually portrayed as an adult who expects his children to grow up and leave behind their childish ways, their mother is the much more compassionate and tender parent. In this retelling their roles are somewhat reversed, with Mr. Darling having a special bond with his children while their mother is depicted as a very clichéd hysterical female unable to see reason, something that felt entirely unnecessary. Also unnecessary was the way Wendy’s brother, John was written. To put it plainly, the boy was a brat who came across as selfish and sometimes cruel without any real justification.
Retellings, while expanding on lesser known elements of the original work or putting a different twist on a familiar story, if done right, still touches on similar themes. One of the main themes of Peter Pan is accepting that growing-up is a part of life, despite the how magical childhood can be. However, none of the characters’ inner journey’s dealt with the problem of growing-up. There’s also a kind of innocence to Peter Pan which simply did not exist in this retelling. Wendy often came across as either incredibly naive or driven more by her hormones than common sense. Her attraction to Peter seemed more foolish than a reaction to his charms, and I was really frustrated by how melodramatic both her and the other characters acted throughout the novel.
Colleen Oakes’s writing can be really beautiful at times, especially when describing the richness of Neverland, both the enchanting and dark sides; however, I found it difficult to forge any kind of emotional connection with any of the characters.