Stars (Wendy Darling #1), by Colleen Oakes

3 Oct
TWO stars of FIVE

TWO stars of FIVE

This one sparked so much emotion in me that I have to explain with spoilers. Highlight with your cursor if you want to read them.

I’m going to have to give up on reading YA novels. I just don’t relate to them, but having read Eleanor & Park and The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxset, I know it’s possible!! I truly don’t understand the reviewers that love this book, especially those from adult women, but then again, I never understood all the love for the Twilight series either.

I like the concept of the book, with Peter being a darker character, and more logical danger in the story. However this Peter Pan is not just “darker”, he is cold, cruel, manipulative, rapey, a liar, and a kidnapper and murderer. Although young, there is no mention of Peter not wanting to grow up, in fact it seems his main goal is to take Wendy’s virginity whether she agrees or not. Scratch that, “seems” is the wrong word, he explicitly wants to have sex with Wendy whether she agrees or not. He also keeps plenty of alcohol on hand for all the Lost Boys to drink, boys as young as at least five – and no one bats an eye, including Wendy. And this is strange, considering we find out later that Peter’s father was a drunk who beat his family. But consistency and explanations are not something we get much of in this book.

John isn’t much better than Peter. He’s a misogynistic ass who treats Wendy terribly through the entire book. At age 14, he’s already learned that women have their place and Wendy needs to not overstep her boundaries. It’s mentioned that John has trouble fitting in at school and has no friends, and that is why he behaves in this manner. But we are never shown this more fragile side of John, we are only told he is so. Instead we are shown this terribly rude, abusive, disrespectful boy, and therefore the reader has no compassion for him and doesn’t really care if John might get left behind in Neverland. Let him stay and get killed by a pirate, no big loss as far as I’m concerned.

I hated the portrayal of the female characters and you should too. Aside from a couple very short bits in London, Wendy and Tink are the only females in this story. Neither Wendy nor Tink have any control over their own lives, or any goals in life other than to be with the men they love and to take care of their families. Wendy loves looking at stars with her father, but there’s no mention of her maybe studying to be an astronomer. She has fallen in love with a boy her father deems unworthy, and he forbids her from seeing him. Her brother John treats her like crap. In Neverland, Peter has complete control over her and sees her as his possession with which he can do what he wants, including rape if necessary. Wendy is given pants to wear in one scene (just ONE scene) and she’s very uncomfortable wearing them, she wants her skirts back. She has no desire for adventure whatsoever. Wendy is preoccupied throughout with keeping her pure heart and remaining innocent – I’m not saying Wendy should be a slut, but let’s give up on the requirement of innocence and purity for “worthy” girls, okay? As Peter is actively trying to rape her (yes, rape, she tells him NO over and over and over), she even apologizes for leading him astray and assumes the whole situation is her fault. This is the message we’re giving young girls now?

Poor Tink is basically a willing prisoner of Peter’s, because she looooooves him, just as many abused women do. Yes, Tink is beaten by Peter. It also appears that Peter sucks her fairy life force right out of her in order to obtain his flying powers. This is only alluded to in this first book, but I think that was obviously the reason for Tink’s haggard look (well, that and the beatings). And Peter has so little respect for this woman who truly loves him that he takes Wendy to have sex in Tink’s house!

I understand that Peter has somehow put a magical spell on everyone, and that is why Wendy at least is attracted to him at first. But no one else treats the women any better, and Wendy had no more rights at home than she does in Neverland.

In the end Wendy finally grows some ovaries and takes charge – with the help of a male of course. And the final scene makes me almost want to read the next book. But with no assurance that the females will actually become stronger AND have any control over their own lives, I’m going to have to just assume book two will just be another great concept with a poor execution. This book only manages to get that second star because of the promising ending.

I was given a copy from Netgalley for an honest review, and unfortunately you can see I was less than impressed. Hopefully this won’t stop them from giving me books in the future, but I intend to stay away from YA novels from now on. Come on, women authors, give your female characters some strength and power and rights!!

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