Initial reaction: I can’t type all my reaction to this via tablet, but I wish this had been better. It had good ideas, even had moments of compelling writing. But the cliches and ending ruined this for me.
Alyssa B. Sheinmel’s “Second Star” is one of those books that have the “great premise, lacking execution” tag fitting it to a tee. I actually thought this book had some great ideas and a very different, but a relevant imaging of Peter Pan. Making Peter into a surfer kid, Wendy into a young woman searching for her missing brothers John and Michael, having Hook be a drug pusher for the “star dust” that gets people on a high they don’t come back from? I do think these were good ideas – I’m willing to give Sheinmel full credit on that front.
Unfortunately, this was a book I struggled through in terms of maintaining interest. For one, it’s pacing really didn’t do very well for keeping the conflict momentum going. I did think the writing had some compelling intimacies in points, and I was willing to follow Wendy’s perspective through the narrative. But for all the narratives cool ideas and interpretation, this…had far too many familiar tropes to make it enjoyable.
Instalove. Love triangle. Female jealousy and shaming. Need I go on? Give me a YA book that doesn’t have these things. Seriously, I challenge many a YA author to omit these things from their narratives and still write a compelling story. It’s entirely possible, I don’t even know why this is a thing because it’s so annoying when it’s in practically every book (almost) in the genre right now. This book didn’t need ANY of those things to make it good. There was already a compelling story with John and Michael being missing out at sea and Wendy setting out to find them, coming across the “Lost Boys” in Peter’s crew of misfits surfing waves and eking out a living. Peter’s presence could’ve been alluring without the hard instaloving that Wendy does for him. Even Jac’s (Hook) character, who was kind of alluring in some ways, but in others lacking, I kept thinking he was just placed there to be a rival for Wendy’s love from Peter. Wendy’s conflict with her family and inability to let go of her brothers when everyone had all but given up on them was even emotionally sound. Why the petty droning on as to which boy she would end up choosing, and worse yet, have the only other female character in Peter’s ban of misfits causing problems and expressing her sheer hatred for Wendy at every point and turn, over the boys, nonetheless? It’s just…a really cheap shot for conflict given the already established conflicts given here, which are solid in themselves.
The ending really disappointed me because it was one of those ones that don’t feel cohesive, and doesn’t deliver given all the promises made from the setup of the book. You’re expecting some kind of thread that draws things together, but it ends up being a muddled mess and I didn’t feel like Wendy really reached the coming to terms she needed for this story to really hit home. I saw what it was trying to do, but the way it was done just didn’t work. It felt too “Pretty Little Liars” twisty and that didn’t fit the tone of this story at all.
In the end, it had some intrigue in its setup, but unfortunately didn’t measure up. I’d be willing to read more from Sheinmel in the future because there were things in here that I liked on the level of writing and some emotionally compelling turns, but it really felt lacking due to its common cliches and chosen execution.
Overall score: 2/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.