Sunday, June 29, 2014

Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward Pete's nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she's falling hard for Pete. A radical reinvention of a classic, Second Star is an irresistible summer romance about two young men who have yet to grow up--and the troubled beauty trapped between them.

Hardcover, 248 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) 
(info grabbed from GoodReads)

I don't know why the idea of a love triangle between Peter Pan, Wendy, and Captain Hook made me so excited, but it did.  I was very excited to get my hands on this one, and Second Star started off with a bold and interesting take on Peter Pan, but it pittered out as it went on.  The book begins with Wendy going to her senior party on the beach and lamenting her lost-at-sea surfer brothers, John and Michael.  While there, she walks into the ocean and sees a surfer “flying” over the waves.  Wendy then seeks out this mysterious surfer, hoping to find some lead on her brothers, as she cannot accept their death.  This leads her to much mayhem and excitement, and all those other things books are made of.

I really liked the surfing twist of Second Star and thought it made the book original and into a whole new story.  Retellings are all over the YA market now, and it’s hard to find one that sticks out.  Second Star accomplishes this by changing the perspective a bit, adding different issues, and completely changing the setting to make Peter Pan into a whole new story.  The surfing element of the book was what made the book; the lifestyle was explored and it felt like a small but playful twist that worked with Peter Pan so well.

Unfortunately, that was about all that I liked.  I really did not enjoy Wendy as a character.  She is mopey, but beyond that has very little discernible personality.  She’s trying to find herself by shedding everything she knew before and running into the sunset after her brothers, but I couldn’t get behind her on her journey because I didn’t feel anything for her.  We find things about her: she is a good student, she loves her brothers, and she comes from money.  But her as a character felt wishy-washy; she’s not terribly consistent.  This makes sense for a character in such dilemma as Wendy - trying to find her brothers and losing track of herself in the process - however, it made it hard for me to be in her corner.  I couldn’t care for what was happening.  Her depressive state wasn’t done in a relatable way – for me at least.

Second Star really failed me in that the rest of the cast lacked depth.  I would have really liked some more character building of some of the key characters, but with a large cast like this book tried to pull off, it's hard.  Bestowing unique personality into each character is tough, and a lot of the characters came off as generic.  I feel like each of them, Pete (Peter), Belle (Tinkerbelle), and Jas (Captain Hook) were shallow and hollow.  Each was defined by a handful of personality traits.  Pete was mysterious, kind, and mischievous with the added twist of being a surfer… and that’s about it.  The complexity that could be there within and between each character is hinted at, but never explored.  Contemporary YA lit is all about the characters, and none really held much ground in this story.  It was like they’re about to wash away with the tide.

While having an interesting take on Peter Pan, Second Star is lacking in its character development something fierce.  If you like contemporaries that immerse you into a world that you’re more unfamiliar with (like surfing culture), you might find some enjoyment in Second Star.  If you’re looking for an exciting retelling of Peter Pan with a creative twist and intriguing versions of the characters you already love, you may want to look elsewhere.  If this was simply a contemporary, I may have given it three full stars.  Because it is a retelling of a beloved classic, I only give it two.  Second Star is enjoyable, but it fails and pales in any comparison to the original.

Final Thought: 2 out of 5 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads