May 2, 2014

Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Title: Second Star
Author: Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publishing Date: May 13, 2014
Pages/Format: 248, ARC

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.

Book in One Word: Whaaa?

First and foremost, while I did receive an eARC of Second Star from the publisher, I was also able to borrow and read a physical ARC from the super awesome Stacee at Too Fond of Books, so HUGE THANKS, Stacee!

When I first heard what Second Star was about, I REALLY REALLY wanted to read it. A modern retelling of Peter Pan, with surfing and a beach and a love triangle between Wendy, Peter, and Hook? Pretty please with the second star to the right on top! A few months ago, when the book was in my hands, I started it as soon as I possibly could. And this book, which was one of my most anticipated books of 2014? was a bit wavy.

Wendy Darling just graduated high school, but she's not ready to grow up: nine months ago her younger surfer brothers John and Michael disappeared, and she refuses to believe that they're not alive. Her desperate search leads her to an abandoned neighborhood in a hidden, magical-seeming cove and a few surfers: Pete, Belle, Hughie, and a few others. It's from there that she also meets Jas, the pixie dust dealing enemy of Pete's group. It's with these people and a few adventures that Wendy tries and does whatever she can to discover the truth about her lost brothers.

I did, unfortunately, have some issues with this novel. For one, the writing. It really wasn't my favorite, and it's not a style I love to read: too much explaining, more telling than showing. And the story was told with some unrealism, things that, come on, would the character SERIOUSLY do that? (Yeah, I'd totally stay in a house with a group of strangers. Yeah, I'd totally take a drug and not know what it was or what it'd do to me.) Stuff like that always makes me want to roll my eyes. Now, from what I've seen from other people, Second Star seems to go one of two ways: you either like the first half better or the last half. I, personally, preferred the second half, where (slight spoiler, maybe) Jas is the prominent character. There were still issues with the story--and on both halves, the romancey stuff was all a little quick--but I liked Jas more than Pete, and the second half (second half, second star--I crack myself up) just had me more interested in the book.

A big part of Second Star is THAT ENDING. I had reached a point in the book when a thought suddenly hit me: "Is this book going to break my heart?" I didn't think this was the kind of book that could or would do that. But lo and behold, I CRIED. Because even though the ending was open-ended (please, please, PLEASE tell me there will be a sequel) and I still need answers, and I don't really know what happened leading up to the was beautiful. And I need to TELL YOU about the ending, but that is 100% spoilery if you haven't read the book. So, if you have not read Second Star, skip to the next paragraph, because otherwise you will be spoiled for the entire book. Okay, so if you're reading this I'm assuming you read the book. Now, did you understand the ending? I try to look for the good in things, so with this I wondered, "what is this ending?" And I came up with an answer: it's Neverland. If you think about it, in a lot of Peter Pan/Neverland stories, Neverland is there when you need it. In Second Star, Wendy needed, needed answers about what exactly happened to her brothers. When she starts her search and has nothing else to do with her life (and can't really focus on anything, either), she just happens to stumble across what would be, in the original tale, Peter Pan, the Lost Boys, Tinkerbell, and Captain Hook. And they help her and (for the most part) keep her on her feet, keep her sane. And then, when Wendy finds out the truth about John and Michael (not what I had expected, by the way, and WHAT HAPPENED WHEN THEY WERE ON THAT BOAT?), she doesn't need them anymore, even if she doesn't know/think/want that. Those people, the cove--Neverland--it's all gone. Neverland is like Mary Poppins or Nanny McPhee: they show up unexpectedly, maybe you want them there and maybe you don't, they help you, you care for them, and then, just like that--they're not there anymore. It's as if they never existed. Did everything that happened in the end of this book make sense? No. (Peter & Co. had to be real. And Jas checked in at a hotel; imaginary people can't do that!) So, all that said, I got the ending, I liked it in that aspect, and it made me cry (it broke my heart; WHERE DID THEY GO?). But still: A sequel, I need it, pronto.

In a sense, Second Star was a disappointment. I just wanted so much to love this book, and when I didn't I was disappointed. However, I still liked it; I just wish a few things were done differently, and that the majority of the book was more like the last half. Second Star is an interesting, unique way to retell the classic Peter Pan tale, but it still keeps some key elements to the story. You've got an eclectic cast of rogue surfers, some sort-of drug use, and a little bit of magic. Whether or not you give this book a chance is completely up to you (I can't say don't read it, but I also can't say ohmygosh, read it!). But all you'll need is faith, trust, and a little bit of pixie dust. (And for goodness sake, just sprinkle it over yourself, don't inhale/consume it).

Did I like it? Yes.
Did I love it? I believe not.
Would I reread it? Most likely not, but if I did I'd want to see if I noticed some things.
Would I purchase it? Pooossibly, but I'm not in dire need to have this on my shelf or anything.
Who would I recommend it to? Obviously fans of Peter Pan, but also people looking for retellings with a bit of a twist and unexpected ending.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, and that in no way sways my opinion of the book.


  1. Hey I just came across your blog because I was searching whether or not there was gunna be a sequel to Second Star, cause I just loved it. And as I was reading your review I felt like you didn't quite understand how it could've been imaginary/all in her head like her parents thought.. And it's funny cause I was so confused at some point while reading the book thinking "OMG nooo, it could've all seriously been in her head" and it crushed me cause just like her, I wanted it to be real. & because I've seen Fight Club, (Idk if you have) but I was relating it to that and how he created a whole alter personality for himself and believed it was a real person. Lol so I thought yes, drugs and the stress of trying to find your lost brothers could go to your head like that, causing you to create this get away life for yourself. Confusing reality with a dream but also maybe going around on her own and doing the things she believed she was doing with these characters (Pete and Jas) like checking into a hotel and what not.
    But in the end I think the picture sent to her in the mail was a solid thing that could give the reader the hope that they were real and it wasn't all in her head, just like Wendy with Peter Pan and Neverland. It was a real thing for her that her parents wouldn't have understood. So I think they wanted it to stay the main characters getaway, almost like how grown ups weren't allowed in neverland. They would never be able to experience what she had.
    And I liked that her dad was the one that handed her the mail with the picture inside cause then you know she couldn't have made it up and believed she got this picture, her dad actually held the thing as well. But that's just my opinions on it. I thought it was an amazing book so I just wanted to share my thoughts. Lata xo

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