L: Review of Wendy Spinale’s “Everland”

I don’t read a lot of re-tellings, so when Wendy Spinale’s Everland was in a stack of ARCs my professor had received from Scholastic for our class to review, I did not reach for it. Somehow, it followed me home, nonetheless, so I decided to give it a chance.

Forget the story of Peter Pan you know. Because in Everland, the only way to grow up is to survive.

London has been destroyed in a blitz of bombs and disease. The only ones who have survived are children, among them Gwen Darling and her siblings, Joanna and Mikey. They spend their nights scavenging and their days avoiding the ruthless Marauders — the German Army led by Captain Hanz Otto Oswald Kretschmer.

Unsure if the virus has spread past England’s borders but desperate to leave, Captain Hook hunts for a cure, which he thinks can be found in one of the survivors. He and his Marauders stalk the streets snatching children for experimentation. None ever return. Until the day they grab Joanna. As Gwen sets out to save her, she meets a mysterious boy named Pete. Pete offers the assistance of his gang of Lost Boys and the fierce sharpshooter Bella, who have all been living in a city hidden underground. But in a place where help has a steep price and every promise is bound by blood, it will cost Gwen. And are she, Pete, the Lost Boys, and Bella enough to outsmart Captain Hook?

The names of the characters were the main tip-of-the-hat to the original story of Peter Pan. Some of them were obvious; it took very little effort for me to be like “ah yes, Mikey is Michael and Pete is Peter” et cetera, et cetera. Some of the other ones, while still glaringly obvious, were more subtle. Wendy became Gwen and the brother, John, needed to be female, so he became Joanna. Even Hook was still Hook, but it was a nickname for some four-part, uber German name.

When I started reading the book, the names were an irritation; it felt forced, as though the author was coddling the readers, reminding us not-so-subtly that her novel was an homage to the classic story. However, I have to admit that the names grew on me as the story progressed, since Spinale’s story was so vastly different from the classic. Without the inclusion of the names, the story would have shared the same central idea (the power of youth and the need to preserve it), but I’m not sure that the average reader would have noticed the parallel stories, nor the homage being paid to the classic.

Otherwise, the novel was quite interesting and well written. Since it was an ARC, I spotted a few editing errors here and there, but the writing was smooth, making the reading effortless. It was a quick read, not only because it’s short, but also because my interest was piqued throughout. The characters were developed into believable, sometimes likable, sometimes hatable teens. The main character was female, and I do feel as though the story leaned heavily towards female readers; it’s all about Gwen’s responsibility, Gwen’s mission, and Gwen’s unsurprising crush on Pete. Also, there’s a fairy on the sparkly gold cover, so… yeah. Having said that, though, the vast majority of the characters are male, there’s a cool, underground haven that boys will love, and there is a fair amount of murder most foul, crocodiles behaving badly, and guns that seem to call out to male readers (and females, I love that stuff).

Spinale managed to take an old, familiar story and turn it into something new and exciting. The main characters are teens and they go through a lot of friendship, relationship, and family trials that could be helpful for student readers who may be enduring the same things. Also, it’s entertaining! I’m giving it 3 Stars on the Lindsay scale, but 4 on the classroom library scale. I wouldn’t hesitate to put this into a few students’ hands!

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