Genre: Mystery, YA
Publication date: May 13th 2014
by Farrar Straus and Giroux (BYR)
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.
-A copy was provided by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for review-
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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