Book Review – Second Star by Alyssa Sheinmel (YA)
I was given the book via NetGalley for review – thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux Publishing for the opportunity to give it a whirl.
Second Star by Alyssa Sheinmel is pitched as a twist on Peter Pan, and touted as a “radical reinvention of a classic” which would be great . . . except it really wasn’t. And I could get past the fact that it wasn’t really Peter Pan, though there were vague references to the beloved children’s classic, because the concept still seemed cool . . . for a while.
In Second Star, Wendy Darling is searching for her lost, surfer brothers who the entire world has written off as dead. She meets the charismatic surfer, Pete, whose love of flying on the waves, captivates Wendy. There is fiesty Belle, who is a side-kick to Pete, but also his ex-girlfriend (she dislikes Wendy from the get-go). And then there is Jas (a shadow-version of Hook), a young drug-dealing surfer whose best-selling hallucinogen is known as “dust.” Jas and Pete used to be friends, seeking the perfect wave like POINT BREAK, but Jas starts dealing to fund their dreams of chasing the ultimate curl. That’s when Pete kicks Jas to the other side of their beachy paradise known as Kensington, and the line in the sand is drawn.
And yup – I could get down with all those crazy twists . . . even when Wendy ditches her love for Pete for that of Jas, (yes – Wendy has the hots for Hook). I could get down with all those twists, because I realized this wasn’t Peter Pan AT ALL. This was a story about a girl searching for her brothers, but gets mixed up in a band of surfing-obsessed misfits and runaways.
The writing was well done, the setting realistic (I live a mile from the Atlantic – Sheinmel nailed the beach stuff), and the story line interesting. Unfortunately, I really wanted to leave Second Star back in the Milky Way by the time I hit the half-way mark. I finished it, I did, but for me this story just didn’t have the spark and passion that I needed it to have.
I was hoping for an un-put-downable read. Instead I got a story that felt like homework, because of one missing piece: the characters had no depth.
None of the characters had any voice – any dimension – save for Belle. Wendy sounded like Pete and Jas. She falls for BOTH of them, one right after the other. And I can do the insta-love thing, but for me, it didn’t make SENSE. I didn’t see the spark between the characters, I didn’t see the passion or desperation for the truth, and I didn’t FEEL Wendy at all. She could have been eaten by a great white, and I wouldn’t have spared a tear . . . I’m not sure Pete would have either.
I do give the author credit however – for trying to be bold and rewrite a major, childhood classic. I LOVE the idea of it and I loved her twisted view of the story. But there wasn’t enough similarity to Peter Pan to make it a remake, and there wasn’t any voice or depth to the characters to make me cheer them on. It is absolutely well written, but I know my 13-year-old will be bored inside of the first 10 chapters.
This story has some really strong moments – great vivid scenes that I loved. And if used by schools, it will make for interesting discussions on the similarities and contrasts with the real Peter Pan.
But for me, the story fell flat . . . kind of like the waves at low tide.