A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The devastating effects of a family tragedy are explored in depth and a healing path (therapy, medication) is discussed, though healing from trauma is not the focus of the story.
Bravery and courage do not require the absence of fear, only that you find the willingness to take action in the face of fear. Healing from trauma often takes years, but it's possible and worth it. You may experience bad things as a kid, you may grow up too fast, but you can still build a good life for yourself. Good friends will tell you when you're wrong and make up with you without holding a grudge.
Positive Role Models
Wendy struggles to recover from her brothers' disappearance, but she also manages to be good student athlete, a hospital volunteer, and a helpful daughter. She also shows great courage in the face of danger and trauma. Wendy's bestie Jordan is compassionate and kind, but also doesn't let Wendy get away with being thoughtless. Peter Pan is charismatic and enchanting, of course, though he shows vulnerability as well. Peter, Wendy, and her family, as well as many background characters are presumed White. Jordan is Latinx and speaks Spanish occasionally with her dad, who s raising Jordan as a single parent.
Violence & Scariness
Fights between main characters and the villain are mildly violent, resulting in scratches, split lips, bruises, black eyes, etc. Lots of potentially fear-inducing suspense in nighttime scenes in a creepy forest. Several young kids are kidnapped, terrified, and in peril.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A slow burn attraction between main characters results in hand-holding and a few kisses. A main character thinks about their crush naked, but there's no description of nudity.
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"Damn" is used a handful of times, while "pissed," "ass," "s--t" are used twice each.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A supporting character copes with emotional pain by drinking beer, negative consequences on the family are shown. A drunk character plays a terrible role in the disappearance of Wendy and her brothers.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Lost in the Never Woods, by Aiden Thomas (Cemetery Boys), is a modern, dark fantasy reimagining of Peter Pan. In her small hometown of Astoria, Oregon, 18-year-old Wendy Darling and her parents are lost in their respective grief about Wendy's brothers' disappearance five years before. When local kids begin disappearing again and Peter Pan -- in the actual flesh -- shows up, Wendy must face her traumatic past in order to help Peter save the missing kids, including, she hopes, her brothers. Physical violence is limited to fights between primary characters that result in bloody lips, scratches, and bruises. Suspenseful scenes at night in a forest full of whispers, screams, and chasing shadows may rattle sensitive readers. A slow-burn romance leads to some hand-holding and a few kisses. Rare swearing includes "damn," "pissed," "ass," and "s--t."
Is It Any Good?
This atmospheric, enticing retellling of the Peter Pan and Wendy story is a heartbreaking and heartwarming read. Lost in the Never Woods explores the effects of tragedy on Wendy and her parents with a nuanced, trauma-informed perspective. Author Aiden Thomas' skill in creating interesting, authentic characters shines. Despite Wendy's grief and guilt, and the urgency of locating missing children, she finds herself falling for the beguiling Peter Pan. Though at times his typical carefree self, Peter reveals a deeply vulnerable, conflicted side. The setting is also richly constructed. The woods, in particular, are classic dark fairy tale nightmare fuel. Branches and roots crack, scratch, and trip. Whispers, screams, and pleas for help swirl in the air. Trees release shadows that take flight and pursue those who enter. There's also the well-paced plot and absorbing action. A weep-inducing climax is followed by a hopeful ending showing what recovery from trauma can look like.
Small stumbles include descriptive language that occasionally interrupts action and a flat villain (Peter's shadow). Some readers may crave a larger role for Wendy's best friend Jordan, who is perhaps too often relegated to the role of Brown girl supporting White bestie. Hiccups aside, fans of Cemetery Boys and new readers alike can expect to be swept up in what is, on balance, an enchanting and emotional tale.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.