Book Review: Neverland by Shari Arnold

Note: This book was given to me before its book release, as per requested in NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review

I have read and watched numerous retelling and remake of numerous classics. Hell, Disney is a front-liner when it comes to remaking classical fairy tales and novels and I’ve been feeding on those retelling before I discovered they weren’t the originals. (“Oh, so those cheap 12-page fairy tale books in bookstores weren’t stealing from Disney after all,” says the already snarky 8-year-old me.) Seeing how this has been a repetitious concept in literature, it’s natural for me to have my equally proportioned excitement and nervousness while reading Neverland.

Neverland tells the life of a seventeen-year-old girl, Livy Cloud, four months after the death of her younger sister. She finds unusual solace surrounded by young patients who are admitted in the same hospital as her late sibling, reading them fairy tales. Then, she met the mysterious and mischievous Meyer, who tugs her into a world filled with adventures and abundant of mind-boggling questions.

For some reason, Neverland reminds me of Alex Flinn’s own modern takes on fairy tales (e.g, Beastly and Cloaked). But the difference is that while Flinn have stuck with the original stories and set them in a contemporary setting, Shari Arnold took few details from the original story and used them as inspirations and pieces to which her story was created. It tackles hugely on the process–or lack thereof–of losing someone you deeply love which is a breath of fresh air when all that’s being building up on popular novels recently are characters who die.

(Yes, I’m still not over Allegiant especially when the movie trilogy is about to end. I just hope they won’t use The Part 2 Scheme. That’s even more torturous and I wouldn’t watch the movie then. Couldn’t care less of TFIOS. Even if Especially when, it did make me cry.)

I absolutely loved the characters. Livy narrates the story in such a crucially wonderful way, being this have-become-unfun person after the death of her sister and recalling precious moments she shared with Jenna. She and her family portrayed exquisitely the fragility and vulnerability of a person when he has lost someone dearly. Meyer held the illusory and mystery around him that I expect him to have. Then through the middle of the novel, this unexpected shade of helplessness surfaced and I felt deeply moved by it. The rest of the characters were likable and relatable too.

The story is divided into three parts of which I each loved in their own ways. The first part was light and introductory to everything else that will happen in the story. It sets the stage, foreshadowing upcoming events, and by the middle of it I’ve already deduced paths the story might take. Surprisingly, I didn’t find that unappealing to continue reading. In fact, my interest for the story piqued higher.

The second part was my most favorite part of all. The underlying theme of the story, the one underneath all the romance and teen angst, became more prominent here as does the climactic events of the story. I love how the main characters have developed a sense of loneliness and desperation in this part. It was touching and it completely blew me away. The third and last part gave way to a very careful resolution to the story, bringing it to a close in a satisfying way.

I think that this novel would have held a more profound grip on its recurring theme if only it veered a wee bit away from the romance. In the end, I didn’t feel as if Livy had come into any concrete decision herself.

Overall, I’m utterly amazed at how the story was intricately crafted. It was heart-warming and beautifully done. I recommend it to anyone who’s up for a more modern and emotionally raw take on Peter Pan. I’m excited to read Shari Arnold’s debut novel Kate Triumph and her succeeding novels.

Truth be told, I haven’t read J.M. Barrie’s original novel but after reading this I’m itching to now. In fact, if you’ll see that person breathlessly inquiring for the first edition of J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan, that’s me.



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