BINGO – They, She, He (the author is trans)
I read Aiden Thomas’ other novel Cemetery Boys earlier this year, and I cannot imagine that it will be knocked out of my top 5 favorite novels that I read in 2021. My expectations were very high going in to Lost in the Never Woods, and unfortunately, those expectations were not met.
Lost in the Never Woods is a reimaging of the Peter Pan story set in modern times. Peter Pan is real much to the consternation of 18-year-old Wendy Darling who thought he was just a character from her mother’s stories. Peter’s shadow has escaped again, but in this story, it has physically and corporeally manifested itself and is kidnapping children. As Peter’s shadow grows stronger by feeding on the fear, depression, and anxiety it causes in the kidnapped children, Peter grows weaker. It’s up to Wendy and Peter to save the missing children and put a stop to Peter’s shadow lest those children suffer the same fate of Wendy’s brothers who went missing 5 years ago.
This was almost a DNF at about 40% in when I realized that I had no idea who Wendy was as a character. She really had no defining characteristics other than the trauma of losing her brothers 5 years ago. She’s not particularly intelligent or crafty. She’s not overly athletic or strong (despite mentioning being on the high school team every other chapter). She’s not loyal, creative, strong-willed, stubborn, or anything. What she is though is insufferable. Every bad thing that happens is her fault. She blames herself and falls on her sword over everything. And she rarely has an independent thought or action. She always wants to check in with Peter to see what he thinks they should do. She never just decides.
She is also described at the beginning of the book as having dry, red, and cracked hands from constantly using hand sanitizer and washing her hands. The children at the hospital where Wendy volunteers marvel at her cracked skin. She even calls it a compulsion at one point. Okay sure, her trauma is manifesting itself as an actual disorder and that will keep coming up throughout the book, right? No, that was just a weird throwaway thing that isn’t mentioned past the first third? Cool, cool, cool.
It’s also bizarre to me how Wendy is treated by her dad. This story takes place the summer before Wendy goes away to the University of Oregon for college, yet Wendy’s dad expects her to check in all the time. At one point, he forbids her from doing something. Wendy. An 18-year-old young woman on the verge of near total independence. She is constantly admonished to lock the doors and windows and not stay out past dark. I know that kids are going missing and all, but Wendy isn’t exactly a child. Her dad is overly protective without any of the actual caring or concern to back it up.