Author: Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Genre: young adult, retelling
Published: expected May 13 2013
Source: MacMillan for review
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.
If I gave points just for for trying, Second Star would rate up there with my favorites of the year so far. It's undoubtedly an impressive feat that Sheinmel attempts here -- update and adapt the Peter Pan fairy tale (now with drugs!) for a modern, young adult audience. Based on that description alone, how I wanted to love this book. How hard I tried
I can't deny that at some points, I mentally rated this book as high as a 3, and as low as a .5 at others. When Second Star is frustrating, it's really frustrating. An exercise in frustration, even. But when Sheinmel's prose is perfect, when her characters aren't continually acting in unbelievable ways, it can be a mindlessly enjoyable read. It's also obvious that Sheinmel has an able grip on conveying certain moods and tones in addition to her writing. It's easy to appreciate (and juxtapose) the author's facility with language while decrying her mishandling the interpretation of the plot. For every lovely phrase, there have to be at least two ridiculous character actions or statements. The ethereal mood of the story can only take it so far -- once the technical and prose aspects are down, the novel lacks sense or appeal.
The characters are where Second Star reaaallly fell apart for me as a reader. They are, as individuals and as a group, ridiculous and incapable of engendering empathy or sympathy. They act in unbelievable ways, say laughable things, do the opposite of what would be authentic for their situations. When the main character of Wendy puts her newly-met love interest(s) above her MISSING AND PRESUMED DEAD brothers... it's hard to care about anyone involved. If I am siding with the parents in a young adult novel, you're doing it all wrong. I know a lot of readers will have more issues with the prominent drug use and Jas's role, but the message that your new boyfriend should trump your personal quest was what primarily made me less than enthused. Way less than enthused.
It's a shame that the execution could not live up to the premise for Second Star. The bones of the story have promise and Sheinmel can certainly write. This is just not the novel it could have been, hampered by silly characters and lazy plot devices. Instalove is no substitute for substance and Wendy needed more agency and passion for herself.
It was a misfire for me and my coblogger. See her excellent review here.