Title: Second Star
by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Publishing Info: May 13, 2014 by
Genres: Contemporary, Magical Realism, Retelling, Young Adult Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon
// GoodreadsDate Completed: March 9, 2014 Related Posts: The Stone Girl
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.
I’m just gonna come right out and say it… SECOND STAR was a very disappointing read for me. I’m not a huge fan of Peter Pan, but as with any retelling or adaptation, when it’s done well (for example, Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson and others non-Peter Pan related), I have the potential to fall in love with it. SECOND STAR was not that book for me.
The synopsis sounds exciting, right? Love, loss, lies, dark magic — the back cover even talks about magical realism which I was incredibly curious about and couldn’t wait to see how magical realism really came into play. The sad fact was that it didn’t. This is a contemporary retelling — which I don’t have a problem with at all, except for the fact that too many elements of the original story, which is obviously a fantasy, were forced to squeeze into the plot of a contemporary novel. It’s just too hard to make a contemporary retelling so parallel to that of the original fantasy and fairy tale. Let me explain…
The book starts off with Wendy Darling graduating high school. She sees a mysterious boy out in the surf at night (“Pete”) and ends up immediately enthralled with him. Deciding to finally go off and try to find her missing brothers John and Michael (who were supposedly killed in a surfing accident but with little trace of them, Wendy had never believed it), Wendy travels from beach to beach looking for clues and ends up crossing paths with Pete in more ways than one. Enter Pete’s nemesis “Jas” (the Captain Hook character who I would have LOVED more “good to be bad” appeal from) and a love triangle between the three.
Okay, that I can do. But I had some major issues with the book and how things were forced to fit in. First: I could have loved the Wendy-Peter-Hook love triangle. I wanted her to choose between the innocent and the corrupt, but the switch from guy to guy happened way too quickly and I didn’t really feel a genuine connection to either one. I also wanted much more dark side from Jas. He IS the nemesis after all, but turns out just to be a good guy who is perceived as bad when he’s just taken a few wrong turns in life. I guess that’s entirely possible as a contemporary adaptation spin on Peter Pan, but I think I was hoping for a more Machiavellian Hook than unfortunate circumstances.
Second: I hated the drug story arc. What? Drugs, you say? Yes. Drug use in books doesn’t really bother me — I’m not always a fan of it, but it doesn’t usually bother me — but what I didn’t like about it in SECOND STAR was the way it was used and how forced it felt. The popular drug among the surfers is…. “fairy dust”. I felt like the drugs existed solely in the the story to incorporate fairy dust in there somehow and I could have done without all of it. There could have been some other backstory to create the rivalry between Pete and Jas (rival gator farms? I could have totally loved a more comedic retelling like that…) and not used a weird drug plot.
Third: The most interesting thing about this book to me was the mysterious disappearance of Wendy’s twin brothers Michael and John. Wendy never believed that they had died in a surfing accident and so she sets out to find out what really happened to them. The book starts out with this giant mystery and while Wendy really is looking for answers the whole time, the reader gets virtually no clues the entire book until closer towards the end. When I first saw that a mystery was being introduced, I was hoping it would follow a more mysterious path, but it really just felt like a constant back and forth between Wendy and the love triangle, and Wendy and her stubbornness to find her brothers. I felt like she was constantly going back and forth — obsessed with this or obsessed with that — and I just didn’t like her character much at all.
I was hoping for a lot more as the book progressed because I felt like the beginning half was going fairly slowly and when Wendy finally started picking up big clues about her brothers, I was ready to jump back into the mystery. The ending, however, was entirely a let down. It was confusing, it was unclear, and it was very disappointing. I’m not sure if this is where the “magical realism” was supposed to come into play…? Honestly, there was no magic in this book. I mean, that’s fine — it’s a contemporary retelling so really, it shouldn’t have magic, but it was advertised in more than one place so I just had expectations that it would show up.
Really, SECOND STAR just didn’t work for me. I didn’t enjoy the plot, I felt like too many aspects of Peter Pan were forced into the book and in other places that not enough of Peter Pan was present. Retellings are a tricky business and it’s really hard to get a perfect amount of original story and adaptation, but SECOND STAR just didn’t mesh well for me. I was also not a fan of the characters at all and I felt like they could have been so much more developed. Their personalities didn’t shine, no one stood out, and the back stories seemed weak or convenient. The upside was that it was a quick read and the mystery of Michael and John kept me interested although I was ultimately disappointed with how pretty much even story arc resolved.
“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!
Wendy Darling // Character Obsessions: Finding her brothers, learning how to surf, running away, boys.
Wendy was just so “blah” for me. I felt like her character didn’t have a lot of depth. She was stubborn, didn’t listen to anyone, and only had two things on her mind (well, three, I guess): Finding her brothers and Pete/Jas. Her emotions and her decisions were all over the place and she just wasn’t a very compelling main character to read about.
Jas // Character Obsessions: Fairy dust, money, surfing, Wendy.
Jas was the Captain Hook character and he could have just been so much more BAD. I would have loved to see a Machiavellian Jas, hell-bent on destroying Pete and using Wendy or a bitter, broken Jas or… anything dark and twisty. Jas was a softie. He may have been Pete’s rival but when it came down to it, he was just an old softie who made a few bad decisions and ended up in a tight spot. Meh. Disappointing.
Belle // Character Obsessions: Surfing, Pete, hanging with the boys.
Belle was the Tinkerbell character in the book and… actually, I guess she was fairly spot on! I guess as far as the movie goes, she had the right amount of jealousy, but honestly as I was reading, it felt like too much. I got annoyed with how jealous and protective she was and it got old pretty fast. She was, however, the only character who seemed to stand out to me in terms of personality. She knew what she wanted, she was happy where she was in life, and she had a fuller backstory than most seemed to have.
Kept Me Hooked On: Genre-switched adaptations. I was so curious to see a fairy tale reimagined as a contemporary! I’m always interested to see what authors keep and what they change. It didn’t quite work out for me in this case, but I think it’s incredibly interesting and I’m always looking for more!
Left Me Wanting More: Development. Everything seemed so unfinished. The characters felt undeveloped, the plot felt thrown together, the ending seemed totally anticlimactic. It just wasn’t working for me at all.
I really hoped to find another great Peter Pan retelling but SECOND STAR just didn’t do it for me. I’m always interested to see retellings take on in a different genre so I was so curious about a contemporary adaptation, but it just didn’t work for me. Maybe a little bit of Rufio could have sweetened the deal…?
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