Title: Lost in the Never Woods
Author: Aiden Thomas
Genre: YA, Urban Fantasy, Retelling
Tropes: Peter Pan Retelling, Haunted Woods
Edition/Pages: Audiobook, 12 hours 14 minutes
Thank you so much to Swoon Reads, Netgalley, and Libro.fm for providing an e-arc copy in exchange for an honest review.
Content Warnings: Gun violence, Child abduction, Death, Grief, PTSD, Hospitalization, Emotionally absent parents
This book was such a beautiful depiction of grief, mental illness, and lost childhood. This Peter Pan reimagining is full of heartbreaking metaphor and amazing character explorations.
What I loved:
- Aiden Thomas is so skilled at weaving difficult and important discussions into a story without making the story feel difficult or heavy. This book balances light hearted humor with some seriously heart-wrenching plots in a way that makes the story feel accessible and universal.
- The mental illness representation in here felt so authentic. This explored not only the personal effects of mental illness but also how it’s perceived by those around you (friends, family, etc) and how it impacts other aspects of your life. While Wendy seems to have a grasp on her mental health, she struggles with others seeing her as less than or incapable. And I really appreciated the exploration of that side to mental illness.
- There is a lot of metaphor to break down in the relationships in this book. I’ve seen a lot of criticism for the relationship between Wendy and Peter in here and while I wasn’t rooting for them to be end game either, I don’t think that was the intension here. Wendy is struggling to cope with loss of her childhood and brothers. And Peter is a way for her to hold onto that past (and hope). I loved how her struggles with acceptance and grief were depicted in such a literal way. It was impactful and beautifully done.
What I didn’t love:
- I found the dialogue in here to be exceptionally cringe-y. It read very stinted and extra apparent while listening to the audiobook. The dialogue never felt believable to realistic – I was always very aware that I was reading words on a page during these portions. The exposition portions were much stronger in my opinion.
- Lastly, I felt like this meandered at times. There were moments throughout this that felt wholly unnecessary to advancing the plot. While there are times I like to just sit with the characters, in this case I found it really stunted the pacing and didn’t add enough to the story.
Overall, I think this book really succeeded with this premise and themes. The exploration of grief and mental health is one I think many readers will relate to and appreciate. This also has a fantastic audiobook narration! I’m already excited for whatever Aiden Thomas is working on next!