Author: Aiden Thomas
Publication Date: March 23, 2021
Length: 384 pages
Read Date(s): April 21, 2021 – April 24, 2021
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.
I was very excited to get my hands on this book, and it was one of my most anticipated releases for this spring. I knew I wanted it the second I saw the cover, which is absolutely mesmerizing, and the realization that Aiden Thomas was the author sealed the deal because I’ve heard so many great things about their other novel. However, I’ve come away from the book with mixed feelings and had a bit of difficulty in deciding how to rate it.
There were so many things I loved about this book. The beginning hooked me instantly with the mystery of the missing kids and questions about Wendy’s past. It was tense and well-written with hints about what was going on dropped slowly throughout the first quarter of the book (and the rest of it too). And I’m going to be honest, the ending wrecked me. I should have seen it coming because, in hindsight, the author did a great job dropping clues, but I didn’t expect the book to go where it did. Overall, the first quarter and last quarter of the book told a moving story that I enjoyed reading very much.
The problems happened mainly in the middle. It dragged a lot, and the characters did so many things that didn’t really seem useful to the story. For example, Wendy and Peter spent too much time eating ice cream and splashing around under waterfalls. The focus on these frivolous dates after the tense tone of the beginning of the book really undermined the supposed time-sensitive nature of finding the kids that was set up earlier in the story. These scenes just felt really out of place. I found myself asking as I read…Why are you doing this when more and more kids are going missing and there is only a little time left to find them?!
I liked the characters in this book, especially Peter. The author did a great job of making him full of joyful youth while also feeling incredibly timeless. Although, I felt like he got the short end of the stick with how the book ended. My thoughts on Wendy are a bit more complicated. She was kind of a wet blanket throughout the book and reading her repetitive, constant worrying throughout the middle of the book while she did nothing about the ongoing situation was frustrating and boring at times. After reflecting on her character and her growth during the story, I realized that the repetitive worry that I found frustrating was actually a pretty accurate portrayal of living with anxiety. Upon this realization, my attitude about the character changed, and I have come to appreciate how good the author depicted Wendy’s struggle with both anxiety and the grief from losing her brothers.
The themes in this book are poignant and dark. This is not a Peter Pan story I would tell a child. I loved its portrayal of dealing with grief, and I found the way the author handled the changes in family dynamic after the loss of a child to be especially moving. The use of the shadow as a metaphor for the darkness that can consume you if you constantly live in fear of loss was also well done. Overall, the book tackled some pretty heavy material and executed it well.
All in all, Lost in the Never Woods is a dark, interesting Peter Pan re-telling that is plagued by pacing problems and a middle that drags it down. The portrayal of grief and anxiety and the effects of losing a child are well-done, and the story provides a great lesson in how fear of loss can be paralyzing and destructive. I think this would have been a five star read for me if the book was shorter and the pacing in the middle had been better. Therefore, I rate it 4 out of 5 stars.