Author: Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Synopsis: 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.
Huge thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan for this ARC!
Considering all the middling reviews for this book, I found myself pleasantly surprised by Second Star. It’s easily one of the weirder retellings I’ve seen. It’s a drugged-up, trauma story, wherein Wendy Darling thinks she can save her brothers, John and Michael, but in actuality, struggles to cope with their loss.
This book is heartbreaking, and the way in which Sheinmel portrays Wendy is one of erratic, panic-induced, torture. It’s also about her coping and attempt at rest from her demons as well. What I loved about this book is how Wendy goes about working through her demons — she’s definitely not as innocent as one would assume, and she spends a lot of the story reflecting her life and the disappearance of her brothers. Wendy is easy to sympathize with, especially for someone who has gone through so much and struggles to believe in what reality has dealt. It’s hard to blame her for things when her head isn’t clear.
This book is loosely based on Peter Pan, but really, it feels like it was more by names alone. There is definitely some moments that feel very Peter Pan-esque, but to say it’s a straight up retelling would be a lie. I’m actually okay with how minimal it borrows from the original story, and I like that pixie dust is drugs. It’s weirdly gripping to watch Wendy spiral and be influenced the way she is. I did have a hard time putting this book down just because I wanted to see where it would all go.
The ending of this book is really frustrating, but overall I’d say it worked. It makes you sad that Wendy eventually gives into the wishes of those around her, but it’s also completely understandable considering her level of self-harm. Second Staris not an easy book to read by any means, but it’s amazing how easy it can take hold of the reader and just guide them through this twisted, messed up experience.
Most of all, though, this book made me miss California. I loved the author’s description of the waves, the bonfires, it just felt so atmospheric and you could really picture yourself there as you read along. It made me miss the ocean, the sand, the blue skies… I want to go back so badly.
Overall, Second Star is a fantastic book. It’s not perfect, but I can say with confidence that I really enjoyed the ride. I think if you can look past some of its issues and just let the book take hold, it’ll be an easy one to whip right through.