A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Unhooked, by Lisa Maxwell, is a dark twist on the Peter Pan story starring 17-year-old Gwen in Neverland, but it's but not the familiar place of childhood tales. Here, both the "Peter Pan" and "Captain Hook" characters are crazy-attractive teen boys who survive by consuming the life force of their victims; violent deaths are plentiful, by suicide, stabbing, hacking, slashing, devouring, and magic, as are vivid descriptions of the gore. Literally and psychologically, the ground is constantly shifting under protagonist/narrator Gwen's feet as she tries to save herself and her best friend, while trying to decide which of the two charming, murderous boys is less likely to betray her. Some language ("arse," "bloody," "hell," "Christ!") shouldn't be problematical to most high-school-age readers, but this version of the Peter Pan myth may be too dark for some.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
All her life, 17-year-old Gwen has been uprooted every time her artist mom becomes convinced they're being pursued by monsters. When the latest episode lands them in a spooky old house in London, her only comfort is that her best friend, Olivia, is staying for a couple of weeks. But on the first night in the new house, both girls are abducted by terrifying beings to different parts of a strange, magical world. It's Neverland, but not one that J.M. Barrie or Walt Disney would recognize. Struggling with hallucinations and forgetfulness, Gwen soon realizes that her mom's fears were all too well founded, and tries to figure out who, if anyone, in this threatening, violent world, she can trust to help her and Olivia get home. Especially since both the "Peter Pan" and "Captain Hook" figures are charming, murderous, and full of secrets.
Is it any good?
Lisa Maxwell offers an intriguing premise in her violent, magic-drenched version of Neverland, which quickly comes UNHOOKED from the original as teen heroine Gwen struggles against evil forces. The first-person, present-tense narrative will grab many readers, especially those who like their romantic tales on the dark side. But heads up: There's a lot of gore, and much dwelling on the details, as the body count rises; some scenes find hero and heroine slogging through piles of corpses.
Some will find the cosmology and world-building a bit uneven, as critical facts and characters sometimes get superficial treatment, while others will love Gwen's courage and determination to do right, despite magical forces and swoon-worthy but murderous boys..
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the Peter Pan story -- why do you think people keep going back to it and making up their own versions? What do you learn by comparing some of the variations?
Why do you think tales of changelings -- children taken from one world to another, while a child from the other world takes their place -- have been so popular over the centuries? What other examples do you know?
Pick one of your favorite childhood stories and write your own version with the same world and characters.
- Author: Lisa Maxwell
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Book Characters, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Pirates
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon Pulse
- Publication date: February 2, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 352
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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