Published: May 10 2016
Number of pages: 312
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: fantasy, romance, dystopian, adventure, classical retelling, steampunk
Rating: 5/5 owl hoots
London was destroyed by a German blitz of bombs and a viral disease. The only who survived the destruction and the outbreak of the virus are children, including sixteen year old Gwen Darling, and her younger siblings, Joanna and Mikey. They spend their nights scavenging and avoiding the Marauders; the German army led by the ruthless Captain Hanz Otto Oswald Kretschmer or Hook.
Captain Hook is on the search for the cure from the virus that has spread past England’s borders, and he thinks that the cure can be found in the children. He and his Marauders stalk the streets to find the children and are taken to his lab for experimentation. None have ever return.
But one day, they grab Joanna and Gwen will stop at nothing to make sure she is safe back in her arms. Later she crosses paths with a boy named Pete, a daredevil who offers her his help with the assistance of the Lost Boys and the fierce Bella who have been living in the underground city. But are Gwen, Pete, Bella, and the Lost Boys enough to save Joanna from Captain Hook?
This is one of the best steampunk YA stories I’ve read this year! A classic retelling of Peter Pan set in a dystopian world in London after the blitz attack from Germany, and following a dangerous virus outbreak, you end up with the most exciting adventure story there is. It’s very rare that I give a perfect 5 star rating but this book deserved it, the plot was edge-of-your-seat intense, the characters were fascinating, and the story was just out of this world! There is so much to love about this book that if you love reading Peter Pan, steampunk and dystopian, then you must read this book. If you don’t like reading any of the above, then read this anyways!
Let’s talk about the characters because there’s so much to love about them! First we meet Gwen, a teenager and guardian to her younger sister and brother. With no sight of their parents, Gwen is forced to take care of her siblings as they survive what’s left of post-apocalyptic London. There is absolutely nothing left of the city anymore; we’re talking a real ghost town where everything is in ruins and there is no food or water, and everyone in the city has either fled or died, so the Darling siblings are left to scavenge for whatever is left in the city to survive.
Gwen takes her role as guardian very seriously and watches over her brother, Mikey and sister Joanna after their parents disappeared. For a teen girl, she’s pretty brave to watch over her family while keeping herself in one piece after everything that’s happened. I love seeing a female character as smart, flawed, and fearless, and Gwen is all three of those things. She’s smart enough to trust Pete and his gang of Lost Boys (and Girls) so they can help her save Joanna, fearless to stand and fight against Captain Hook and his sidekick, Smeeth, and underneath the grime and dirt there is no longer a little girl but a brave, young woman grown out of her comfort zone. Gwen has really grown after her meeting with Pete, it’s like her adventures with him have made her change, and now she’s this mature, strong woman who saves her family from Hook and his crew. Seriously, that stand off in the ending was nail-biting intense but she wasn’t alone in all the action.
Pete is one of the most caring male characters; he not only looks out for the Lost Boys but also does everything in his power to help Gwen find her sister too. Pete has remarkable leadership qualities despite his young age. He’s strong enough to overcome tragedies and is kind to take in lost children to join his underground city. Pete has ferocity but he also has a softer, affectionate side when he’s taking care of Bella. But between Pete and Gwen, Gwen will always be the hero in my eyes after proving herself how courageous she can be.
The story is told in Gwen’s and Hook’s perspective although it would be interesting to see Pete’s perspective too because he is also an important character. If I were to choose which had the best back-story, I chose Hook because of his tragic childhood. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the guy, he’s went through so much tragedy growing up, and has suffered through his mother’s abuse all his life. Underneath that cruelty and wickedness, is a broken man and I think Gwen saw that too for a brief moment, but I still couldn’t forget what he did to those kidnapped children. There was so much to love about this story and the references to Peter Pan was on point. I regret not reading Peter Pan but I will definitely be reading the sequel!