Neverland by Shari Arnold
Release date: April 7th 2015
Obtained from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
It’s been four months since seventeen-year-old Livy Cloud lost her younger sister, but she isn’t quite ready to move on with her life — not even close. She’d rather spend her time at the Seattle Children’s hospital, reading to the patients and holding onto memories of the sister who was everything to her and more.
But when she meets the mysterious and illusive Meyer she is drawn into a world of adventure, a world where questions abound.
Is she ready to live life without her sister? Or more importantly, is she brave enough to love again?
In this modern reimagining of Peter Pan, will Livy lose herself to Neverland or will she find what she’s been searching for?
I stare out the window as we cut across town, focused on the reflection of a girl whose eyes are still slightly red but bright and the boy sitting next to her who occasionally glances in her direction. I don’t know this girl. She looks like me- she has the same hazel eyes and strawberry blonde hair- but she definitely doesn’t act like me. I would never get on a bus with a strange boy. I would never go out into the night in pursuit of an adventure. No. I don’t recognize this girl, but I want to be her. I like the way I feel right now, how each and every breath I take is spreading throughout my body like a wildfire, not trapped, as it usually is, below the heavy feeling in my chest. It’s been a while since I felt like I could breathe freely.
I was a little wary of this book at first, because my experience with lesser known authors hasn’t been very good lately. I was so pleasantly surprised for several reasons, however, when I finally picked it up. One of the aspects of this book that I really did not anticipate was its emotional intensity. As someone who has a sister the same age as the protagonist’s sister, I could connect very strongly to her pain. Livy’s struggle to let go of her sister and begin the healing process made me tear up on several occasions because I could imagine myself in that same situation.
Even though this is a fantasy novel and it contains magic and other fantastical elements, its themes were not particularly light. At its most basic level, it was really a story about a girl who struggles to decide if she wants to go on with her life after the loss of someone she loves, or if she wants to lose herself in the darkness of grief. For those of you who are familiar with If I Stay, you can find some parallels in that novel and this one.
Meyer (the love interest and the “Peter Pan” of this story) pops into Livy’s life and attempts to show her that life can still be worth living even when it feels like you’ve lost a piece of yourself. To his surprise, though, it turns out that she has just as much to teach him about love and loss. For this reason I found their relationship to be beautiful. Albeit, I did find Livy a little weird for trusting Meyer so easily in the beginning of the book when she knows almost nothing about him. However, I’m willing to overlook this, as an important idea present in this book is taking risks (and, ultimately, if the cost you pay for these risks is worth it).
One of my complaints about this book is that, at times, it can feel a little slow. On the other hand, I loved how you didn’t really know what was going to happen next. The adventures that Meyer takes Livy on are fun, and the combination of his energetic youthfulness and his wisdom and experience with pain makes him such a wonderfully complex character. Plus, it didn’t hurt that he has sparkling green eyes and an ever-present grin (a combination which I’m a huge sucker for).
While the story does drag on quite slowly in some parts, I found this novel to be emotional and powerful. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good stand-alone novel about grief and loss that doesn’t portray these themes in a particularly dreary or depressing way. Or, of course, anyone looking for a Peter Pan retelling 😉