Please be aware that this review contains some spoilers. Do not continue reading unless you are fine with being spoiled.
I’ve been looking forward to reading Everland since receiving it in an OwlCrate box last year. I’d heard mixed things about it, but the cover was swoon-worthy and it’s a retelling of Peter Pan, which I was really excited about. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations.
I spent the entire book waiting to connect with the characters, waiting for something to really capture my attention, but it never happened.
There are two key things that kept distracting me. The first is that this doesn’t feel like a YA book, which is what it has been marketed as. The overall tone of the novel was young enough to be suitable for middle-grade readers rather than a YA audience.
The characters were acting really, really young for their ages. I kept forgetting that the main character, Gwen, was 15; she seemed more like a 12-year-old. And look, in some ways it makes sense: most of the adults are dead and the kids have been left to fend for themselves at a young age. Being forced to grow up and fend for yourself doesn’t always make you act more mature. Regression is a thing.
But it’s not just the young children; even the chapters from Hook’s point of view felt so young they were bordering on comical, and that character is supposed to be 18 years old, if I recall correctly.
The second major thing is that the author, Wendy Spinale, seemed intent on staying a little too close to the original Peter Pan story. I mean, we’ve got a modern steampunk setting rather than Neverland, and there’s a creepy virus going around killing people—those are incredibly interesting premises to work on.
However, every time Everland looked like it was about to fully embrace those differences, something happened and it took a detour to quote Peter Pan or jam in a heavy-handed reference.
This issue seemed to lead to a lot of repetition as the author went in circles, trying to create a new world for young adults while sticking painfully close to a children’s story that’s more than 100 years old.
I feel like all of the YA fairy tale retellings I’ve enjoyed in the past have taken general inspiration from an origin story and run in a new and different direction, whereas Everland is never anything other than a story of Wendy/Gwen Darling in a different setting.
I’m sure Everland will capture the hearts and imaginations of people all around the world but, as beautiful as this book is, and as wonderful as the premise seems, it just wasn’t for me.