Series: Wendy Darling Saga, #1
Pub. Date: 2015
Genres: Modern Fantasy YA, Retelling, Historical Fiction
Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Yesterday marked the end of the Retellathon, where we read retellings for a week. I read Colleen Oakes’ Stars for the readathon’s Unhappily Ever After challenge because it promised a dark twist on the already dark Peter Pan. If you know the original book, you know that it’s already a darker tale than Disney portrays. This book ages Wendy and Peter up a couple of years so that there can be a romantic interest beyond the original Wendy’s crush. As it goes through with those main elements changed, Stars largely maintains the general plot of Peter Pan and promises to become nightmarish for Wendy. For the dark YA on the market and the original story’s darkness, this Colleen Oakes’ novel does not live up to that promised nightmare and cruelty.
The book starts in an older London where we get background on the Darlings’ status in society and Wendy’s romantic interests. They’re at least upper middle class and are Catholic. Wendy is considered a proper and kind young lady in society, though she harbors a secret boyfriend. This secret boyfriend is poor bookseller’s son who would like to marry her, and he wants to reveal the secret to her family. It doesn’t help that Wendy’s snobbish, smart brother, John, knows about it and tells her how unacceptable it is. Their bubbly, five-year-old brother, Michael, is happy enough to keep secrets and play with his siblings.
I like how the Darling children have been updated for this novel. They have more distinct personalities, though Michael is pretty flat. I like the conflicts between them and those that arise between them and the Lost Boys.
All it takes is a minor conflict and a party to send the parents away for Peter Pan to steal the children away. Peter with his green eyes, that sometimes turn navy, promises the world to these children, and they willingly take off with him. What follows is largely similar to the original Peter Pan novel, including fighting pirates and some bloody death. John’s loneliness and desire for acceptance is soothed with rank among the Lost Boys, and Michael fits in with the Pips. Wendy holds a special place for Peter as his obvious romantic interest, and he very much desires her. Tinkerbell is also here, but she exists more like those from Celtic legend than her Disney or J.M. Barrie counterparts.
The main draw to the book for me was that Neverland and the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up “have the potential to transform into an everlasting nightmare,” as the synopsis says. I knew, that with Peter and Wendy aged up, this was going to make Peter a love interest who was probably psychotic and abusive, but I didn’t expect to read through more than two-thirds of the book to actually encounter it. He has moments early on where you can sense the underlying threat, but it was always directed at someone else. I expected the navy-eyed manipulator to show true colors to Wendy sooner, though his words at times should have been warning bells. Fiction involving a manipulative, evil person is alright with me, but I expected to see that show through the character earlier in the story than what happened in Stars. The only danger that really leads up is one near death experience for Wendy and some attacks.
The last half of the book took on an overly descriptive tone. Some of the ways that Peter, Neverland, and the magical memory loss are described is a little excessive and felt forced in some ways. It feels like it’s trying to justify and rush the synopsis from the back cover.
The Darling children were better developed for this retelling, but Stars was not darker to me than the original story. While I’m not sure that this book left me wanting to continue the series, it made me more interested in trying other Peter Pan retellings.