Thursday, May 08, 2014

Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

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I received this book for free from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. SheinmelSecond Star Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux (BYR) on May 13th 2014
Genres: Mystery, YA
Source: Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
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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.

Peter Pan was my favourite cartoon as a child, I must have watched my video cassette (ha!) of it at least 40 times, so it’s no surprise that I was giddy about this book. While I had some qualms with it, insta-love for instance – with not one but two boy (ick) – the magical aspect of it had me delighted. It’s not the kind of read that captivates from the start, but rather a book that takes you by surprise as it grows into something completely magnetic.

Grieving from the loss of her brothers, Wendy goes on an adventure to try to find out what happened to them, convinced that they’re still alive, living a wild life of water and waves. Although the comparisons are few, along her journey we meet some interesting characters who bear resemblance to those of my childhood days watching Peter Pan. I especially enjoyed the fondness they all clearly shared for one another. They were like a true family, brought together by waves and harsh pasts. On that note, I appreciated how many layers there was to this story. Grief was undoubtedly at its centre, but it also brought in a fantastic dose of happiness and learning to live life to the fullest, along with more serious topics like drugs and mental illness.

Aided by a wonderfully atmospheric writing style, the air of mystery in this novel quickly became my favourite part of it all. The lovely, lyrical touch of Alyssa’s writing gives everything a dreamlike quality. From the many beautiful beach settings to the freedom of the waves to the friendships made, you can glimpse an undertone of magic inside every page. This gives it a surreal-like tone that makes you wonder if this is all an illusion, a drug-addled haze, or if this is actually real. I do admit to growing a bit antsy towards the middle where it was more (read: all) about surfing, but this is followed by a twist that I found at once perfect and wistful.

Now for the few disappointments I felt towards Second Star, let’s talk about the protagonist and the romance. Wendy is not particularly easy to connect to. Her grief, for one, keeps her out-of-reach emotionally; she’s obviously in denial, even admitting to chasing phantoms, but the emotional punch this usually brings shows up too late – at the very end for me. Mostly, though, she comes off as a bit whiny and indecisive which are not qualities that make for a likeable protagonist in my book. As for the romance, it consists of double insta-love and a kinda-love-triangle (though it’s more like she moves on from one to the other- but is that better?) with two equally uncharismatic boys that I never really felt had much personality. Fortunately, the book’s constantly wavering focus does lower the weight of these issues.

While only loosely based on Peter Pan, Second Star borrows some of its magic and wonder, and brings us into an enchanting journey of a young girl battling an emotional war. It has a lot to offer, but could use some deeper character and relationship building.


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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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19 Responses to “Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel”

  1. Amanda @ Book Badger

    I’m sorry this book wasn’t as good as you’d been hoping. It’s difficult to come to terms with a book that’s meant to be something relating to your childhood and it doesn’t tick all the boxes, but I’m glad it wasn’t a huge flop for you, at least it was on some level enjoyable 🙂

  2. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    I always have trouble connecting with characters who have this emotional barrier around them too. It’s a shame about Wendy’s character and the romance because this seems like it could have been a very strong book with the themes it handled. Lovely review, Giselle!

  3. Jessica @ Rabid Reads

    Blah. I can’t seem to decide whether I want to read this book or not. On the one hand, I think I’d have more luck with it b/c I don’t read a lot of contemporary YA, so whenever I do, it’s mostly still new and fresh. AND I love Peter Pan too, so the whole concept behind this book is fabulous (IMO). Then again, if I can’t connect to the MC b/c she’s emotionally unavailable, what’s the point?

  4. Kristin@Blood,Sweat and Books

    I haven’t read this one yet because it’s a contemporary. I know it’s loosely based on Peter Pan but it doesn’t sound like there were as many connections to that stories as you would’ve liked. I’m still not sure if I’ll read this one but at least you didn’t hate it. I guess that gives me some hope if I ever decide to take the plunge.

  5. Vi

    Hmm, I really like the cover & I haven’t ever read a Peter Pan retelling so this sounds pretty cool. Even though it wasn’t that awesome, glad to know you enjoyed it somewhat nonetheless.

  6. Sophia @ Bookwyrming Thoughts

    Nuuu, insta-love?!?! >_< *hides flipped table* Sorry you didn't enjoy it as much – I do like the cover though… and I think Peter Pan is one of those classics I haven't read. o_o

    Oh, and I noticed you're reading Dark Metropolis. I read it awhile ago for the blog tour in June and enjoyed it! Hope you enjoy it as well, Giselle! 🙂

    That was completely off topic. As for lyrical writing… sounds like fun! 😉

  7. Lauren

    I’m glad to hear the writing is atmospheric, and that there is such a layered story that deals with real issues. It’s a shame you had trouble connecting to Wendy and that the romance was insta and triangled (my two least favorite things to read right now). I still am going to give this a go because the writing sounds enticing. Thanks for your thoughtful review!

  8. Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

    Even if the romance and characterization wasn’t quite up to your standards, I’m glad you enjoyed it despite the minor flaws it had. The atmospheric writing and the layered storyline certainly has me intrigued, and as a fan of Peter Pan as well, I’ll definitely have to give this a try. Thanks so much for sharing Giselle, and, as always, brilliant review! <3

  9. Cait @ Notebook Sisters

    I want to try this because I absolutely ADORED Peter Pan when I was little. Okay, what am I even saying? I STILL adore the fairy tale. XD I just read Tiger Lily and it was aaaamazing. So I’m pretty keen to try Second Star still, but I’m pretty extra sure it won’t float my boat (har, har, pardon the pun). I just love the Peter Pan tale too much, probably.

  10. Kristilyn (Reading in Winter)

    I actually really liked this one. It took me about 50 pages to realize that it was a rewrite of Peter Pan … one of my favourites! I think the fact that I went into it not expecting it to be a classics adaptation was why I liked it so much. It was more of a surprise as I read the story and I really wanted to find out what happened next.

  11. Pili

    I’m sorry to hear it didn’t work out better for you, Giselle!
    But hearing about the insta-love with two guys and the sort of love triangle stuff… I’m not going to be much interested in this one at all!
    Great review!