Thursday, October 8, 2015

Wendy Darling: Stars by Colleen Oakes

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: September 28, 2015

Wendy Darling has a perfectly agreeable life with her parents and brothers in wealthy London, as well as a budding romance with Booth, the neighborhood bookseller’s son. But while their parents are at a ball, the charmingly beautiful Peter Pan comes to the Darling children’s nursery and—dazzled by this flying boy with god-like powers—they follow him out of the window and straight on to morning, to Neverland, a intoxicating island of feral freedom. As time passes in Neverland, Wendy realizes that this Lost Boy’s paradise of turquoise seas, mermaids, and pirates holds terrible secrets rooted in blood and greed. As Peter’s grasp on her heart tightens, she struggles to remember where she came from—and begins to suspect that this island of dreams, and the boy who desires her—have the potential to transform into an everlasting nightmare.

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All children, except one, grow up. That child, the adolescent waif who rides the back of the wind has inspired countless storytellers with his exploits among the stars, author Colleen Oakes among them. Her latest release, Wendy Darling, is a darker, more mature, re-telling of Barrie's timeless masterpiece and while I liked the idea, I admit the execution left me rather disappointed. 

I wish I could say otherwise, but my frustrations started early. The prologue is artistic, but vague and I still haven't figured out why the author thought it necessary. The scene didn't draw me in, establish relevant details or set the stage for the story to come. It's superfluous in every sense and I can't help wishing it'd been omitted. 

As a character, Wendy boasts an abundance of potential, but the early chapters of her adventure left me suspicious of Oakes and wary of the direction she appeared to be taking. My misgivings were legitimized as the novel progressed and I found myself increasingly disgusted with the liberties taken against a much loved classic. Perhaps I'm old fashioned, but I believe re-tellings should emulate or at least compliment the spirit of the work that inspired them. Wendy Darling does neither and stands as a flagrant affront to the themes the original author sought to emphasize and explore. 

Forgive me, but I think Oakes went too far with this adaptation. I appreciate dark storytelling as much as the next reader, but I can't condone butchering a classic children's story to do it. Were this a standalone novel, a fantasy adventure of the author's own creation I'd  praise Oakes' complex characterizations and intense motifs, but part of re-telling a story is maintaining a connection and I don't think that happened here. 

Fair warning folks, there are scenes of violent death in this book, adolescent alcoholism and a few raging hormones. If that sort of thing bothers you, it might be best to steer clear. Not bad, but not what I expected. Very much doubt I'll be continuing the series. 

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“I knew I was bound for something different. Something better. I was meant to rule the stars, not gaze at them from under our poverty.” 
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