ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘Lost in the Never Woods’ Is Dark and Mysterious

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Lost in the Never Woods

Lost in the Never Woods is written by Aiden Thomas (Cemetery Boys), and published by Macmillan and Swoon Reads, an imprint of Feiwel and Friends. Lost in the Never Woods is a  modern retelling of Peter Pan with a dark twist.

Lost in the Never Woods follows Wendy Darling five years after she and her brothers, John and Michael, disappeared from the woods behind their house. And while Wendy reappeared six months after they all went missing, John and Michael never returned. Since that moment, Wendy has been wracked with guilt and grief, all the while hoping that her brothers were still alive. 

Since that fateful day, Wendy has done her best to avoid the woods. But the woods won’t let her forget what she has lost. When other children from her town start disappearing, Wendy runs into a boy that claims to be Peter Pan, the same Peter Pan her mom told them bedtime stories about. And when Peter claims that his runaway shadow is behind the disappearances, Wendy sees the opportunity to find out what happened to her and her brothers, and maybe even find them again. 

Thomas’s writing style is descriptive and beautiful. Lost in the Never Woods takes place entirely within the small town of Astoria, Oregon. The only time the characters are in Neverland is during Wendy’s flashbacks and nightmares. But despite the limited setting, Thomas creates such a vibrant and darkly magical world. This is especially apparent in the descriptions of the woods. 

Thomas takes what could’ve been a very mundane setting and makes it unique. The woods almost feel like a character themselves. Whenever Wendy and Peter are in the woods, there’s such a creepy, ominous vibe. Wendy feels like the trees are watching her, whispering in her ear. 

The characters Thomas creates are really what drives the story of Lost in the Never Woods, rather than the plot. And while Wendy and Peter feel like fully realized characters, this emphasis on characters over plot affects the story’s pacing. The first half of the book is a slow buildup setting up the characters’ location, background, and basics. Especially Wendy.

Lost in the Never Woods is told from Wendy’s point of view, and she’s a very fascinating and complex character.  Wendy wants to study Nursing in college. She spends time hanging out with her best friend, like a normal teenager. But she also has visions of a dark, twisted tree haunting her, causing her to draw it over and over. And despite being an adult, she still believes in magic enough to be able to see Peter Pan.

Thomas does a great job of establishing Wendy’s voice. Wendy sounds older and more mature than a typical eighteen-year-old, but narratively it makes sense. The loss of Michael and John devastated her parents, who both shut down in their own way; her mom working constantly and her dad becoming angry and confrontational whenever things don’t go his way.

The incident was traumatic and tragic for Wendy as well,  and she grows up too fast. Wendy had to become her own parent and take care of her parents. She’s juggling the normal household responsibilities such as cleaning, making meals, and grocery shopping—all in addition to her volunteer hours at the hospital and being part of the swim team.

Peter is the other main character of Lost in the Never Woods. Peter Pan is magical; he can fly, he never grows up, and he’s always going on adventures with the lost kids in Neverland. At least, he’s supposed to anyway. But the longer Peter spends with Wendy, the more his magic is disappearing, and he’s beginning to grow up. And through this, Wendy starts to realize that Peter has never been as carefree as he seemed; he’s carrying the weight of keeping the lost kids safe on his shoulders.  

Finally, there’s Peter’s shadow. In Lost in the Never Woods, shadows are made from darker emotions like fear, guilt, sadness. Peter’s shadow is almost like the anti-Peter Pan, encompassing all of the darkness contained within him. While Peter’s shadow doesn’t show up in person much of the book, it’s always there, lingering in the background as a constant threat hanging over Wendy and Peter’s heads. 

Thomas’s characters are so strong that it makes up for the plot’s slow burn at the start of the book. The reader gets to know Wendy and Peter deeply. And once the book hits the fifty percent mark, the plot begins to pick up the pace and finishes out strong.  

Lost in the Never Woods is a must-read for fans of Thomas’s previous work, Cemetery Boys, as well as fans of the Peter Pan story. With memorable characters and beautiful worldbuilding, Thomas’s take on the story is fresh and new.  Lost in the Never Woods will haunt the reader long after they turn the last page. 

Lost in the Never Woods is available wherever books are sold on March 23, 2021.

Lost in the Never Woods
4.5

TL;DR

Lost in the Never Woods is a must-read for fans of Thomas’s previous work, Cemetery Boys, as well as fans of the Peter Pan story. With memorable characters and beautiful worldbuilding, Thomas’s take on the story is fresh and new.  Lost in the Never Woods will haunt the reader long after they turn the last page.