Book Review: Second Star by Alyssa Sheinmel

Book Review: Second Star by Alyssa Sheinmel

I received this book free from Goodreads First Reads and Farrar Straus Giroux as an advanced reader copy.

Upon receiving this book, I was excited to read it – I’d seen a lot of good reviews, and even though it’s a young adult (YA) book and I’m trying to get away from them, in favor of some more adult genres, I still couldn’t resist this. A modern remake of the classic Peter Pan with a love triangle between Wendy, Peter and Hook, how could you possibly miss? I was surprised to find the book written in first person, since I don’t see that too often in the books I read, but it didn’t put me off in any way.

We first meet Wendy as a graduating high school senior, seemingly lost in her own skin after the disappearance of her two brothers. She is a self professed ‘good girl’ but rebellious in the sense that she believes that her brothers are still alive when everyone else insists they died surfing months earlier. This belief leads her to start a search for them that lands her on a small beach near the cliffs called Kensington. This is where Wendy really meets Pete for the first time, thought she saw him on the beach once before. Pete definitely possesses those magnetic qualities and the selfish recklessness that we recognize from the original Peter Pan, and he does care for and defend the other kids that are living on the beach with him. He is the ringleader, and the person who teaches Wendy (an ever darkening, albeit still naive character) how to surf. The surfing becomes increasing important to Wendy as she searches for her brothers and falls for Pete, though she’s still unsure of herself and the new people around her.

As the novel progresses we learn that Pete is not the entirely valiant, trustworthy person Wendy takes him to be at first glance, and she looses her faith in him. This is when she meets Jas (Hook), who she has been warned about. He is a local drug dealer and hated by the ‘lost boys’ and Pete, for reasons explained later in the novel. When she shows up on Jas’ doorstep, Wendy is forced to take ‘dust’, which is the drug that Jas sells, though he never does it himself. He ends up taking care of her through the next few days of her drug induced haze, during which is talks constantly of her brothers and wanting to find them. When she finally returns home from these escapades, her parents confront her, believing Wendy is addicted to drugs and deeply in denial about her brothers’ deaths.

Before her parents are going to send her to a rehabilitation center, Jas sneaks in her window and offers to help her find her brothers, since they were addicted to the drug that he sells. She goes with him, knowing it may be her only chance now that she is the only person that believes they’re still alive. During their search, the reason for the bad blood between Pete and Jas is revealed more fully. As a storm approaches that will create huge waves far out to sea, Jas and Wendy meet up with Pete and a ‘lost boy’ named Belle, who is his girlfriend. They agree to go with Wendy and Jas to surf this epic wave created by the storm, even though it is dangerous enough to cause all the beaches on the California coast to be closed. While they are out on the boat Think confesses that she was with Wendy’s brothers the day they died, and Wendy allows herself to fall overboard, and passes out before Jas can save her. She washes up on the beach, not really knowing what happened.

Wendy wakes up later in a hospital to the revelation that she has been contained there for hallucinations about people named Pete, Jas and Belle. The doctor and her parents think that Wendy made up the events detailed in the book, and in her own notebook to deal with the death of her brothers, then waded out into the ocean to attempt to commit suicide. After a time she caves to their rational, and begins to believe that everything she thought was true was just a hallucination. As she is preparing to head off to college, an envelope is mailed to her with a picture in it that changes everything.

 

Second Star turned out to be a lot smarter than I thought it would be when I started it, and I was pleasantly surprised by the end. Though there were some moments when I felt as though the story was contrived, overall, I definitely enjoyed it. I liked Sheinmel’s descriptions of the ocean and the way she made Pete so magnetic and like his fairy tale counterpart. I would recommend this to YA readers who like romance with a little bit of mystery thrown in, and for those who love Peter Pan.

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