ARC Review: Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas
Lost in the Never Woods is a dark and twisty fantasy retelling of Peter Pan that’s ultimately about growing up too fast, processing trauma and loss, recapturing a bit of childhood wonder, and moving forward in life. This book is special and the mental health representation means a lot to me.
About Lost in the Never Woods
Publisher: Swoon Reads | Release Date: March 23, 2021 | Pages: 384
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling | Format: eARC | Source: Publisher*
It’s been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.
Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don’t do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what’s waiting for her in the woods.
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absent and emotionally distant parents, alcoholism, child death, depictions of grief, loss of a loved one, memory gaps, missing children, obsessive behaviors, trauma, violence
anxiety and PTSD rep, Latinx rep (side character)
My Review of Lost in the Never Woods
Lost in the Never Woods is a heartbreakingly beautiful retelling of Peter Pan from the New York Times Bestselling author Aiden Thomas! As a fan of Aiden’s debut Cemetery Boys and adorer of retellings, I was ecstatic when offered an early review copy. A lot of times my own hype gets in the way, but my expectations were exceeded – I read this book twice in as many weeks, and if that isn’t an indication of the magic within these pages… I don’t know what will convince you.
“Dedicated to every heavy heart that had to grow up too fast.”
Heartbreakingly beautiful, Lost in the Never Woods will both rend your heart and bring a smile to your face. Wendy is a girl who grew up too fast, a foil to Peter’s childish immortality, as Peter’s effervescence brings magic back into her world after she nearly runs him over in the woods on her 18th birthday.
“But that’s what happens when you grow up; you forget about the magic you’ve seen.”
There is something almost effortless about reading Aiden Thomas’ writing: it is quick and and easy to read while also vividly descriptive without overburdening the narrative. The book drew me in immediately, keeping me engaged and hungry for more. There is so much I absolutely love about this book but cannot discuss so I can keep this review spoiler-free, but this book sparked a lot of analysis on my part!
“The fading light of dusk tinged the trees a cold blue-gray. They were dense here, like they only got in the heart of the woods. There was a light layer of snow covering the trees and frosting the ground beneath her feet. Her wet clothes clung to her skin. The smell of moist dirt filled her nose.”
I could feel myself in the woods, tension crawling in my veins as the stakes are raised and more is revealed about Wendy’s missing memory and the current children’s disappearances. This is a dark story full of grief and loss, and Wendy shoulders an immense amount of guilt for what happened five years earlier (and her inability to remember anything). But I love how strong Wendy is despite everything she’s been through, how she is determined to move on and persevere.
“Shadows are made up of all the dark and bad parts of yourself. They feed off bad thoughts – fear, worry, sadness, and guilt […] When you start getting consumed by those feelings, it gives the shadow power over you.”
Trauma and loss have a way of hardening the soul, forcing them to grow up too soon, and Wendy found herself taking care of her parents at the age of 13. My heart broke for her planning grocery lists based on what she could cook for her parents, doing household chores, and feeling alone in her own house as her parents were caught up in their own grief. I just wanted to give Wendy a big hug and protect her.
As with Cemetery Boys, where the book truly shines is with the characters and their relationships with one another. Her best friend Jordan is a treasure among mere mortals and everyone deserves a friend like her. I am honestly so happy that Wendy has Jordan, this friendship being an anchor and hope for a better future. That despite the darkness, Wendy still held onto hope for a better tomorrow.
“He was stardust and the smell of summer.”
I adore how Peter brings magic back into Wendy’s life and helps her reclaim some of her lost childhood so she can heal. Just, all the heart eye emojis. ALSO, I am pleased to announce we have another “hide a boy in the bedroom” scene from Aiden and it is just delightful.
“I want you to live, Wendy, not just endure.”
Overall, I adored this book so much and it surprised me in the best of ways. I preordered this after reading the first page of my eARC, and just listened to the audiobook copy instead of writing my review. I think this is a story that will mean a lot to many readers and will spark your brain. Lost in the Never Woods has secured Aiden’s spot on my insta-buy author list and you should pick it up if you’re a fan of stories with amazing character relationships.
Audiobook Notes: 15/10 narration by Avi Roque; brought the story alive and sucked me into a re-read instead of writing this review. Worth it.
Preorder & Library Incentive
If you preorder a copy, or request it at your local library, you can join Aiden’s international preorder campaign and get some goodies along with the book!
- 3 double-sided character cards featuring Peter, Wendy, John, and Michael. (International)
- A limited edition hard enamel pin with glitter and glow-in-the-dark accents (while supplies last & US-only)!
* I have since purchased a final copy for my personal collection.
Have you read Lost in the Never Woods yet, or do you plan to?
What are your favorite Peter Pan retellings?
Let’s go on another adventure together!