“To die will be an awfully big adventure”
Author: Wendy Spinale
Series: Everland # 1
Publication: May 10th 2016 by Scholastic Press
Summary from Goodreads:
London has been destroyed in a blitz of bombs and disease. The only ones who have survived are children, among them Gwen Darling and her siblings, Joanna and Mikey. They spend their nights scavenging and their days avoiding the ruthless Marauders — the German army led by Captain Hanz Otto Oswald Kretschmer.
Unsure if the virus has spread past England’s borders but desperate to leave, Captain Hook hunts for a cure, which he thinks can be found in one of the survivors. He and his Marauders stalk the streets snatching children for experimentation. None ever return. Until the day they grab Joanna. As Gwen sets out to save her, she meets a daredevil boy named Pete. Pete offers the assistance of his gang of Lost Boys and the fierce sharpshooter Bella, who have all been living in a city hidden underground. But in a place where help has a steep price and every promise is bound by blood, it will cost Gwen. And are she, Pete, the Lost Boys, and Bella enough to outsmart Captain Hook?
I find myself growing increasingly disappointed as I sit here to write this review. Everland had the serious potential to be mind-blowing, amazing, and delicious. It mixed one of my all time favorite legends/fairy tales with a dystopian, virus riddled reality and steampunk architecture. It had everything it needed to succeed, except the most important thing of all: the writing.
You cannot have a book without good writing. It just doesn’t work. You can have fun characters, a brilliant idea and setting, but if the execution is off then the whole thing sort of just falls apart. That is the case with Everland. This debut suffers from a lack of skill, a possible lack of caring, and an overall sense of “don’t give a shit” and “I’m a special, special snowflake.”
I guess I should start this off with what I liked. I loved how true it was to the original tale of Peter Pan. You’ve got the darlings, a Captain Hook, Pete, Bella (Tinkerbell), and even crocodiles that like to eat people – you can improvise the ticking clock from all of the steampunk falderall. Pete is mischievous. Gwen is motherly and likes to tell stories. Her younger sister Joanna (John) is studious and stoic. And then there is little Mikey who is always clinging to his special teddy bear. These little details, like Smeeth and The Lost City and the Lost Boys – all that jazz – were really special and would be a treat for any fan of Peter Pan.
And now for the not so good.
The writing was elementary. It felt as though it went straight from “Hey mom, look at this!” to sitting on store shelves. It was not good quality, it was not vibrant, or descriptive, or anything that could make me want to read it. It was dry, boring, and actually overzealous at times. It distanced you from the character. The writing was like that one kid in P.E who took it too damn seriously and then ruined it for everyone else. The writing was all telling. I mean, what fun is it when the villain is literally giving you a sport’s announcer play-by-play of every little thing?!? No fun. No fun at all. The rest of the characters were no different. Honestly, if the book did not have a Hook POV I probably would have enjoyed it a hell of a lot more. It was fine until he showed up.
The writing wasn’t the only problem for me. It was as though the entire book was trying too hard to be its own special snowflake. It was all, “look at me! I have steampunk fairy wings and a bad attitude”. Oh… wait, that was just the book’s version of Tinkerbell. But seriously, there were so many horrible things going on in this world that it just lost its horror factor. The beauty of horrible things happening to your characters or happening around them is how it affects their character development. When something shitty goes down, we get to peel back another layer of a character and analyze how they react. There was none of that beauty here.
One of my other issues actually was the setting. I couldn’t figure out what stupid era it was. It had all the fixings to be some sort of WWII era awesomeness, but I just found myself very, very confused. Is this present day? I mean, they had canned goods and running water and industrial shelving/buildings, but it was said that they hadn’t received any message by a carrier pigeon or ship. Umm.. what? So yea, it sort of just added to the giant mess of the book which really didn’t help it improve its stance.
Perhaps a little bit of pixie dust will help me to forget the lack of magic and overwhelming sense of awe that usually comes with a Peter Pan story. Everland should be fed to the crocodile. It should get hung upside down by Princess Tiger Lily or carried off in a cloud of pixie dust. While Everland has the potential ingredients to become a delicious masterpiece, it is much better suited to being left in the oven to burn.