ARC Review: Wendy Darling: Stars by Colleen Oakes

ARC Review: Wendy Darling: Stars by Colleen OakesWendy Darling: Stars by Colleen Oakes
Series: Wendy Darling #1
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 256
Published by Spark Press on October 13, 2015
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From the Best-Selling Author of Queen of Hearts comes a dark and mesmerizing twist on the beloved Children's Classic, Peter Pan.

Wendy Darling has a perfectly agreeable life with her parents and brothers in wealthy London, as well as a budding romance with Booth, the neighborhood bookseller’s son. But while their parents are at a ball, the charmingly beautiful Peter Pan comes to the Darling children’s nursery and—dazzled by this flying boy with god-like powers—they follow him out of the window and straight on to morning, to Neverland, a intoxicating island of feral freedom.

As time passes in Neverland, Wendy realizes that this Lost Boy’s paradise of turquoise seas, mermaids, and pirates holds terrible secrets rooted in blood and greed. As Peter’s grasp on her heart tightens, she struggles to remember where she came from—and begins to suspect that this island of dreams, and the boy who desires her—have the potential to transform into an everlasting nightmare.
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*Some Spoilers Ahead*

So I have a fundamental problem that I inevitably run into when reading anything Peter Pan related: I want Wendy and Peter to fall in love and fly off happily into the sunset together to live a magical, lovely life. I’m gonna let you guess how often that happens.

That being said, Wendy Darling is actually a fairly good read for someone who ships Peter and Wendy. As long as you go into it knowing that you probably won’t like the ending (because lets be honest, it’s impossible to have a happy ending for Peter and Wendy that stays true to the spirit of the original story), you’ll probably be fine.

Anyway, there’s so much going for Wendy Darling. When the Darlings first set eyes on Neverland, I remember thinking “now here’s a Peter Pan movie I would love to watch”. Colleen Oakes does a gorgeous job painting a downright mystical and magical and ‘here’s every Peter Pan fantasy I had as a child’ setting for us in her descriptions of Pan Island, a giant tree where Peter and his Lost Boys reside. I think that’s where the true strength of this novel lies: in its colorful descriptions. You really feel like you can see the landscape and the tree houses and the magic that lives in every cell of the place.

And then there’s Peter.

Colleen Oakes has aged Peter slightly so that he is around 16; he’s still mischievous, misguided, rash, stubborn…all the childish aspects you would expect. But this is also a very romanticized version of Pan. Wendy is inescapably drawn to him, and sparks fly between the two from the moment they meet in the Darling’s nursery in London. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), Wendy has another suitor in London that has her heart. But through Peter’s magic, she begins to forget about the other boy, instead focusing on the boy king of Neverland. Wendy, being the grownup that she really is, starts noticing that she doesn’t remember where she came from, doesn’t really remember anything before Peter brought her and her brothers to Neverland.

Speaking of her brothers, John is a real jerk to Wendy. Michael is as adorable as can be, but John really turns on Wendy when they arrive in Neverland. The other Lost Boys are a mix of likable and cruel, wild things growing up without any rules (except for arbitrary ones made up by Peter when he has a whim). Peter is, for the most part, a likable and respected leader, but when it comes down to it, Wendy sees that he cares more for adventure and his own pleasures than he does for the Lost Boys. Even Tink, who is a little terrifying and a lot sad is not someone that Peter seems to truly care for. Obviously he has a certain level of affection for the fairy, but Tink’s hurts go deep, and Peter doesn’t seem to notice.

I knew things were going downhill once we passed the halfway point. I knew things were going to get dicey. I knew there could be no “Happily Ever After” for Peter and Wendy. That didn’t really prepare me for the violence of the shift in Neverland itself when Peter doesn’t get his way in all things.

Colleen Oakes leaves us with a hearty cliffhanger; it was rather jolting honestly. We were in the middle of action, and then all of the sudden, it was over. I thought that surely there must be more (and of course there will be a sequel, so I’m not wrong). But poor Wendy has quite the journey ahead of her before she can make it back safely to her beloved nursery in London.

Wendy Darling is filled to the brim with magic, romance, sword fighting, and descriptions that will paint a gorgeous picture in your mind of a Neverland that feels so real you can almost taste it. I suppose I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that happily ever after for Peter and Wendy. Who knows? Anything’s possible in Neverland.

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