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Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell
Published by Simon and Schuster on February 2nd 2016
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Action & Adventure, Pirates, Fairy Tales & Folklore, Adaptations, Juvenile Nonfiction, Activity Books
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From “talented wordsmith” (Publishers Weekly) Lisa Maxwell comes a lush, atmospheric fantasy novel filled with twists and turns about a girl who is kidnapped and brought to an island inhabited by fairies, a roguish ship captain, and bloodthirsty beasts.
For as long as she can remember, Gwendolyn Allister has never had a place to call home. Her mother believes they are being hunted by brutal monsters, and those delusions have brought them to London, far from the life Gwen had finally started to build for herself. Gwen’s only saving grace is that her best friend, Olivia, is with her for the summer.
But shortly after their arrival, the girls are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and dragged into a world of flesh-eating sea hags and dangerous Fey. And Gwen begins to realize that maybe her mother isn’t so crazy after all…
Gwen discovers that this new world she inhabits is called Neverland, but it’s nothing like the Neverland you’ve heard about in stories. Here, good and evil lose their meaning and memories slip like water through your fingers. As Gwen struggles to remember where she came from and tries to find a way home, she must choose between trusting the charming fairy-tale hero who says all the right things and the captivating pirate who promises to keep her safe.
Caught in the ultimate battle between good and evil, with time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to finally face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But can she save Neverland without losing herself?
Review of Unhooked
Unhooked is a standalone novel by author Lisa Maxwell. I will admit to being intrigued by all the unique and fresh re-imaginings of the more popular fairy tales. Peter Pan has always been a favorite of mine; so, when I saw this book sitting on the shelf of Books-a-Million in Portland, Maine, I just had to check it out. There were quite a few things about this novel that piqued my interest- first, the brooding, seafaring Captain Hook. Unhooked’s captain is nothing like the one in Disney’s animated Peter Pan, or is he anything like Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal in the 1991 film Hook. This Captain doesn’t sport a long, curly wig or sport an obnoxious handlebar mustache- the only thing he sports is a wicked hook, a brooding disposition, and looks that tempt a girl to never want to leave Neverland, despite how dark and ominous this version of the land is.
The second thing that caught my interest was Neverland itself. Lisa Maxwell’s description of this whimsical world is imaginative, that you almost feel like you’re there with the characters. The mermaids in this tale were blood-thirsty and frightening, the fairies weren’t glittery and sweet-they were tricksters whose skills were more aligned with manipulation and deceit. The lost boys weren’t young boys who longed for a mother- Nope. They operate solely on mayhem and violence. They are more apt to terrorize someone’s mother than to ask to be read to and tucked in at night. Even the land itself is dangerous. With it constantly shifting and changing, you could end up being the victim of a harrowing survival tale, rather than the heroine of a dashing adventure. Finally, Peter Pan himself is a character worth noting- This Peter isn’t the fun-loving, brave hero that we were introduced to in “Peter Pan” or “Hook”. This guy might be considered handsome and charming- but he’s as bad as the Fae that I described above.
The heroine of the novel, Gwendolyn “Gwen” Allister describes a strained relationship with her mother because she feels her Mom’s ramblings about monsters is ruining their lives. After all, they have just moved to London in the beginning of the story to escape them. Luckily, Gwen gets to bring her best friend Olivia along to help her get settled in to her new home. We begin detecting something “off” in the beginning of the story by the situation with the lantern Gwen is told to keep on in her room, and Gwen’s strange encounter with a beautiful, albeit ominous, woman (Unhooked’s creepy version of Tinker Bell). My suspicion that this story was heading toward a more dark re-telling was confirmed when Gwen and Olivia are snatched from their room in the night by monstrous creatures and swept away to Neverland, where Gwen nearly drowns.
This retelling of Peter Pan is brilliant! The characters are three dimensional, the imagery and descriptions were extraordinary, the romance was tantalizing, and the story developed perfectly. I found myself chuckling at a few parts, fanning myself after a few encounters with Gwen and Hook, and anxiously gripping the book during the more tense, bone-chilling moments. Unhooked is the perfect blend of adventure, mystery, horror, and romance.
If you’re looking to be swept away into another world, pick up (or download) your copy of Unhooked today!