May 15, 2014

Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Title: Second Star
Author: Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Release Date: May 13th, 2014
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Page Count: 248
Source: ARC from Publisher
(I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest
review. No favors were exchanged, my opinions are my own.)

First Reaction: I'm gonna be thinking about this one (romance aside) for a long time, aren't I?
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.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]


Wendy's brothers went missing 9 months. While her parents and the police have decided John and Michael died in a surfing accident and are ready to close the case and move on, Wendy isn't. So after graduation, she packs her things and attempts to follow her brother's path until she finds them. Along the way, she meets a bunch of interesting characters, including Pete, Belle, and Jas, and learns a lot - about herself and what happened to her brothers.

Let's break this down:

The Brilliant: 
  • The Writing: Oh. My. God. Alyssa Sheinmel's writing style is so fantastic and lovely and dreamy. I just can't get enough. I was totally entranced throughout the entire book. I mean, I was even a few minute late back to work after lunch just so I could finish all of the delicious words. And I think the very best part of the dreamy writing is that it totally fit/created/supported the dreamy tone, unreliable narrator tone of the book.
  • Wendy: Wendy. Oh Wendy. You're so lovely and perfect. Yeah, you make a lot of bad choices re: Pete and Jas (even when you find out Jas's deal it doesn't make her attraction to him any less suspect). But your sadness and troubles are so compelling and fantastic. I'd read all about you and your crazy life choices for as many pages as I can get.
  • Nana: I love that Nana remains a dog. And that she loves Wendy best in this book. So good. So cute. So smushable.
  • The Surfing: I don't know anything about surfing. Or the ocean. But it's so clear that Alyssa Sheinmel's done her research and has a real love and respect for the ocean. And what's really great is that, because of all the facts about the ocean placed throughout the book, you can still feel totally grounded in reality even though the dream-like quality of the book is trying to take you every where else. 
  • The Dreaminess: Between the prose (as mentioned above) and the overall tone of the book, this book puts me exactly where I need to be and in the mindset I need to be in. It's the perfect feel for a Peter Pan retelling, especially a contemporary retelling set on the beach in California. The dreaminess really carried the book and totally sold me on it, despite the problems (nitpicky and otherwise) I had with the plot.
  • The Lost Boys: Wendy's relationship with the Lost Boys (and Belle - AKA Tinkerbell) is just what I wanted it to be. She's still the mother - and Belle's rival. It translated so well to a contemporary retelling. And I still wanted to smush them all up in a hug.
  • The Twists: I think it's pretty clear from the start that John and Michael are gone and aren't coming back. But the twist was so fantastic. That's absolutely what's kept me thinking about this book all week. I don't even want to hint at anything because I want anyone who reads this but hasn't read the book to be unspoiled, but it really presents a lot of interesting questions about reality and other things. Basically, Neverland's shift into reality is very, very well done and totally engages the part of my brain that's usually more focused on shiny things and cookies.

The Eh:
  • The Romance: I don't care for it. Jas kind of stalks Wendy, Pete is a child, and it's mostly just insta-love. But Jas and Pete each represent a side of the story that Wendy needs to hear and, as such, I don't mind the romance so much. Overall, I'd say just ignore the romance as much as you can. Or go into it knowing it's not going to be the be-all, end-all of Wendy's story.
  • The Timeline: The boys go missing 9 months before the start of the book. I'm not entirely sure why it takes Wendy so long to start looking for them. Maybe because she's very Type A and needs to finish school and get into college and all that. But she's so driven to find them in the book, I can't imagine she'd take that long.
  • Wendy's Parents: At first they're in a daze, but then after Wendy comes back from her first absence, they get all helicopter-y. But then she disappears again and no cops are called? After their other two boys ran away and were pronounced dead? I don't understand these selectively present parents. But that only bothered me at the end.

The long and short of it?

Plot: An absolutely brilliant interpretation of Peter Pan and Neverland. Some bits failed a bit for me, but not nearly enough to bring it down.
World Building: Whoa. What an overall trip.
Character Development: Wendy steals the show when it comes to character development. I don't even know how to explain it. Or, I can't explain it because I don't want to spoil the ending. But she's great.
Prose: Perfection.
Would I Recommend This Book?: If you can get past the bad romance and let yourself fall into a fantastic interpretation of an old favorite, you'll love Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel.

Have you read Second Star? How did you feel about it? Maybe you put it off because you've heard stuff about the love triangle but now you're curious? Let me know what you're thinking in the comments below!