Goodreads: Lost in the Never Woods
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.
Lost in the Never Woods is a quiet fantasy that reflects on grief, loss, and moving forward. Wendy Darling and her brothers went missing five years ago, but only Wendy returned. Now, more children in her town are going missing, and the townspeople look to her to have the answers. Wendy, however, cannot remember anything–not even when the boy from her dreams, Peter Pan, appears, asking for her help. Lost in the Never Woods chooses to focus on the aftermath of travelling to fantastic worlds, rather than on the adventure itself. Readers looking for high fantasy will be disappointed, but readers looking for a coming-of-age novel with just a hint of magic will be delighted.
To be clear, Lost in the Never Woods is not a straightforward retelling of Peter Pan. The story occurs after Wendy’s return from Neverland, and what happened during her stay there receives only brief references. The book is concerned more with Wendy’s current situation– just having turned 18, longing to go to college to escape her small town and the guilt she feels over her brothers’ disappearance. Even when Peter Pan appears, he brings very little magic with him. Readers will not receive an introduction to mermaids, to pirates, or to fairies. The main characters are merely Wendy and Peter, and they are involved in a missing persons case, not in swashbuckling escapades.
The depiction of grief and the way it can tear apart a family is very real and raw here. Wendy and her parents seem unable to move on from the tragedy in their past. Her parents are withdrawn, and her father has taken to drinking. Wendy herself seems stuck, not fully willing to accept that soon she will be in college and will need to forge her own future. Wendy’s feelings are the focal point of the novel, the reason the story exists.
Regrettably, however, the story is a little too repetitious, and could have easily been cut to half the length. Although Wendy ostensibly is looking for the missing children, the bulk of the narrative returns again and again to her guilt. She has the same thought processes over and over, to the point where story gets bogged down in Wendy feeling sorry for herself all the time. In one respect, this could be considered a genius artistic choice–the readers get to experience the same sensation of being stuck as Wendy. In another respect, it just makes for a redundant read.
The begging and the ending of the book are probably its greatest strengths. The beginning gets to build up the mystery and suspense, while the ending gets to present readers with the climax and then closure. The middle however? A good edit with generous use of the backspace would have helped. This makes for some uneven pacing that not all readers will appreciate.
Ultimately, Lost in the Never Woods will appeal to readers who enjoy character-driven stories that are slow and quiet. Going in with the proper expectations–that this is a story about a young woman coming to terms with loss, and not an adventure set in Neverland–will likely make a world of difference to readers.