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Title: Lost in the Never Woods
Author: Aiden Thomas
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release date: March 23, 2021
Synopsis: “When children go missing in the small coastal town of Astoria, people look to Wendy for answers.
It’s been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.
Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don’t do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what’s waiting for her in the woods.”
Five years ago, Wendy Darling and her two brothers went missing in the woods. After months, Wendy reappeared with no recollection of where she’d been–and her brothers were never found. Now, at 18, Wendy is still grieving the loss of her brothers and still has no memory of those months when she was missing. Children in her town have started to go missing, putting the spotlight back on her brothers’ disappearance. Then, one night, Wendy nearly runs over a boy in the road. His name is Peter, a boy from her imagination who she never thought was real; he tells her the missing children are in danger of meeting the same fate as her brothers. If she wants to find the missing kids–and her brothers–she’ll have to face the dark of the woods.
Lost in the Never Woods is a unique YA Peter Pan retelling that explores themes of family. Wendy is still haunted by not knowing what happened to her brothers five years ago. The bond between her and her brothers is palpable, and the hope of seeing them again becomes Wendy’s driving motivation throughout the novel. What I found most compelling was how Aiden Thomas explores fear. So much of the conflict comes from Wendy’s fears: of the past, the woods, the dark, the truth, and the future. Throughout the story, she’s forced to confront all of these fears and to interrogate the power that fear holds over her. Wendy’s story is very much about what fear does to us, how it shapes us, how it holds power over us, but also, how we can take that power back.
The relationship between Wendy and Peter is the center of this novel. Wendy grew up listening to her mother’s stories about Peter Pan, never believing he was real. But ever since she came back from the woods, she’s been unable to get Peter’s image out of her mind. Confronted with the fact that Peter is real, and that she might have spent those missing months with him in Neverland, Wendy is rattled. Peter is now 19, and tells Wendy that a dark force is causing him to age. Finding this dark force and stopping it might be the only way to prevent Peter from growing up and to save the missing kids.
As Wendy and Peter work together, the gaps of her memory slowly fill in and a bond forms between the two. Wendy and Peter are connected through their time in Neverland, but now older, they find themselves gravitating towards each other in new ways. The budding romance between them is tender and sweet, and I think it’ll make many Peter Pan fans swoon.
I think Lost in the Never Woods also explores agency in a unique way. Wendy was thirteen when she returned from the woods unable to remember what happened to her brothers; now, at 18, she still struggles with feelings of helplessness as her town searches for the missing children. She’s a teen who wants to help and fight back, but the world around her is constantly telling her that she’s powerless because of her age. While this book is obviously inspired by fairytales and fantasy elements, I think many teens will relate to Wendy’s story.
Lost in the Never Woods is set in Astoria, Oregon, and the setting was one of my favorite parts. It feels atmospheric, and the foresty surroundings lend themselves to the dark, mysterious vibe of the book. In terms of diversity, the main characters were primarily white, straight, and cis, with some supporting Latinx characters. I do think it is important to note that the author, Aiden Thomas, has stated that this was the first book they wrote, and that it was written at a time when they didn’t think they could write characters like them. Readers who loved Aiden’s debut, Cemetery Boys, should be aware that Lost in the Never Woods has a very different vibe and style.
Ultimately, Lost in the Never Woods is a unique, dark take on Peter Pan in a modern setting that explores what happened after Wendy left Neverland. If you’re not a fan of Peter Pan, this might not be the book for you–but if you are a fan, you’ll enjoy this retelling. I’ll also be recommending this one to readers who’ve enjoyed retellings like The Twisted Tales Series, Once & Future, or Cinderella is Dead.
Thank you to NetGalley and Swoon Reads for the digital review copy!