Monday, May 28, 2012

Book Review: Never After by Dan Elconin

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Title: Never After
Author: Dan Elconin
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Paperback: 320 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
There is no place like a dysfunctional home. 
Leaving everything behind for the Island was Ricky's dream come true. When his happily ever after is not quite what it seems, he discovers that running away means running toward bigger problems. 
Trapped on the Island, Ricky must join together with the only people he can trust to help him face his fears and return home. But the only way off the Island is to confront the person who trapped Ricky and his friends in the first place. With countless enemies and true peril staring them down, Ricky's mission to leave this so-called paradise will become a battle for their very lives.

Overall Rating: 3/5

Never After is a retelling of Peter Pan. However, instead of a boy who lives in paradisaical Neverland taking care of his Lost Boys, flirting with mermaids and TigerLily, and valiantly fighting against Captain Hook, Elconin's Peter is a kidnapping con artist. Luring children of unhappy homes to the paradise of Neverland, Peter enters their dreams and makes them believe that all their worries will disappear once reach the island. Then, once they fly to this special place, Peter knocks them on the head, kidnaps them, and saves them for a purpose unknown to the kidnapped boys.

Luckily, the main character, Ricky, is saved by a gang of other kidnapped teenagers who have escaped Peter and remain on the Island, trying to find a way home. Their goal is to kidnap Peter, who is the only one that can fly, and somehow force him to take them home. The only problem is that Peter has a horde of zombies called the Lost Boys at his command, the Native Americans refuse to help, and a giant crocodile has it out for the oldest escapees -- Nigel Hooke.

Never After is imaginative, fun, and adventurous. There is always some intrigue going on, making this a fast and entertaining read. All the characters go through dramatic changes and grow tremendously while they try to find their way back to their dysfunctional homes. Some of the issues with the characters were overly melodramatic, but for the most part, I found myself liking and relating to them. The ending battle is fantastic and well worth the build-up in the beginning.

Yet, while the changes in the classic Peter Pan story are interesting, this was a bit too immature for me. There were too many penis jokes, "that's what she said" lines, and insults to each other's mothers. At first it was amusing, but after a constant barrage of them, it wasn't funny and it seriously detracted from the story. Also, the writing could have been better. There's a lot of telling instead of showing and things always "seem" to be one way, they never simply "are." Basically, just classic mistakes from a young writer. Nothing major, but definitely not as polished as it could have been. Aside from all that, however, this was actually a good story.

I think lovers of retellings and young adult fantasy will appreciate Never After. It's a fun re-imagination of the Peter Pan story we have all grown up with.