Published by Scholastic Press on May 10th 2016
Genres: Adventure, Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Young Adult
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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’ve always been a sucker for a good fairytale. Stories about the girl who loses the glass slipper, the prince who defeats a dragon to rescue his maiden, and especially the little boy who didn’t want to grow up.
There has always been something effortless about Peter Pan and the idea of the whimsical boy who was removed from reality and rescued children to Neverland so that they never had to grow up. It was an idea that we all have wished for once or twice as school gets more difficult, we become more aware of reality, and responsibilities take the place of fun and play. Why wouldn’t we want to escape to a world like Neverland where our only struggle is to mess with pirates without getting caught?
And so begins what I thought Everland would be about.
Instead, the story opens on the city of London, which has been destroyed by war and a virus. It seems as though everyone is gone as the adults have all died by either the initial bombings, or the disease that was released as a result of the attacks. Gwen Darling and her two siblings seem to be the only remaining survivors, and even they are struggling to find food. Between hunger and the spread of disease, the children have the added fear of being abducted by the dreaded Marauders, part of the German army led by Captain Hanz Otto Oswald Kretschmer, aka Hook.
One night, as Gwen is out in search of food, the Marauders discover the Darling’s hide out and take Gwen’s sister Joanna away. Gwen returns to find her little brother Mikey hiding and the fear that her sister might never be found again. This is about the time she meets Pete and his friend Bella. The two were out scavenging and offer to help the Darling’s out of their predicament by taking them back to the Lost City and formulating a plan of rescue.
The adventure of the story is wonderful in its tribute to the original tale, but I think the reason that I enjoyed it so much is because I found the element of reality refreshing. Spinale decided to have the main war zone of the city be “Everland” and the underground city that the Lost Boys built to be the hideout. Each Lost Boy has an amazing skill that they have had to develop because they had to take on the world so quickly, like Doc who is working diligently to find a cure or Mole who is blind but has the best sense of smell. There is something very charming about a world where the older children do their best to protect the innocence of the little ones, while taking on the burdens and bonding together for strength.
In addition, Spinale develops Gwen (essentially Wendy), Bella (or Tinkerbell), and Lily (as in Tiger Lily) into female characters who are incredibly strong and motivated. They are the Lost Girls, and as much involved in the adventure as any Lost Boy. Spinale even teases at the idea of Gwen playing “mother” for the Lost Boys but quickly side steps the issue as Gwen’s main focus is to rescue her sister and protect her family. Bella quickly became one of my favorite characters because she is truly unique. Someone built her special wings out of the mechanics found around the Lost City and provided her with gold dust that she uses to guide her way during hunts for supplies in the surrounding areas. There is nothing better than reading an epic adventure that plays host to a truly bad ass squad of women, even when they are sixteen years old and younger.
Ultimately, Everland had me sucked in from the very beginning through to the final battle. I loved the modern twists and the moments of steampunk that added depth to the characters. Even the way that she incorporated the idea of a virus plaguing the city, and the crocodiles that have taken over the sewage tunnels was remarkable. Considering this is her debut novel, I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us next.
And, as always, keep on reading!