Gwendolyn Allister has lived a life on the run. For as long as she can remember, her mother has relocated them again and again to escape "monsters". Her daughter believes her to be insane, until she realizes the monsters her mother flees from are real.
One night, after Gwendolyn and her mother moved to London, dark creatures snatch Gwendolyn and her friend, Olivia. They whisk her away to a world of mystery called Neverland where the ground shifts with every moment and Fey dwell in the forests. Gwendolyn loses consciousness and awakens on a massive pirate ship led by a boy who calls himself Captain. However, Olivia is gone.
In the fight for survival, Gwendolyn is forced to choose between trusting a boyish pirate guaranteeing her safety and the charming boy who soars through the night skies. As she struggles to find her friend, she uncovers the truth about good, evil, and herself.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I have read many re-imagined fairy tales, but this is one of my favorites. Lisa Maxwell did an excellent job with building a fascinating new world unlike the Neverland we have heard of before. I love how she transformed the traditional idea of Neverland into a place full of evil fairies and shifting lands. Whenever I read her words about the setting, I truly felt as if I had been transported into the story.
I also really enjoyed the development of the Captain's character. At first, he appears to be a boy playing the part of a ruthless, strong pirate. However, with every interaction he has with Gwendolyn, more and more of his true character is unveiled. His conflicts between good and evil also created a sense of realism. The Captain's character perfectly demonstrates how good and evil is not black and white. His character is humanized as the reader learns his backstory and motivations.
And then, there's Pan. While I admired the characterization of the Captain the most, Pan's character was impeccably done. I won't say to much for the sake of avoiding spoilers, but it was incredible to witness how his layers slowly revealed the truth. His character maintains many of the characteristics of the traditional Peter Pan while also taking on a personality of his own.
My favorite part of the novel was the theme. I LOVED how Lisa Maxwell challenges the idea of good and evil in Peter Pan as she shows readers the importance of looking beyond the surface. She inadvertently urges readers to fully understand situations and to see their own self worth. As Gwendolyn takes her journey of self-discovery, Maxwell encourages her readers to look beyond any self doubt blocking their path.
While I loved almost everything about this book, I really wish Gwendolyn had been a stronger female lead. I admired how she constantly challenged both the Captain and Pan, but it broke my heart to take in her abundant amount of self-doubt. I understand it was necessary to complete her story arc, but I wish she would have depended less on others for rescuing. Her character was endearing, and I would have admired her even more if she had recognized her own ability. Additionally, I wish there would have been more of Olivia. I would have loved to have known her character better, and I think that would have made me connect with her more throughout the story.
This novel is perfect for anyone seeking a fast-paced fantasy filled with magical creatures and captivating characters. It is not part of a series, so it is a great book for readers seeking a quality, stand-alone story.
Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley tells the gut-wrenching story of a boy named Solomon Reed. Three years ago, during an intense panic attack, Solomon entered a fountain near his school and was humiliated as his peers watched him simply trying to calm himself with the water. He never returned to his middle school, and within a few days, he stopped going outside altogether. Solomon (Sol for short) suffers from agoraphobia and refuses to leave his home. He spends his time completing his online classwork and engaging in his love of Star Trek. Until he meets Lisa.
Lisa desperately needs to escape her life in Upland, California. She spends all of her time trying to get into the college of her dreams: Woodlawn University. The school is home to the 2nd highest ranking psychology program in the country, and they offer a scholarship for the student who can write the best essay about their experiences with mental health. After reading about the scholarship, Lisa realizes Solomon is the key to her admission. If she can cure him of his agoraphobia, she knows her chances at the scholarship are increased dramatically. Her memories of the boy who jumped into the fountain three years ago evolve into a complex plan as she works to gain his trust and lead him into the outside world.
Honestly, I loved almost everything about this book. The two lines of text on the front cover quickly drew my eyes while I was at the bookstore, and I needed to discover why Solomon Reed had not left his home in "3 years, 2 months, and 1 day". I instantly became attached to Sol as I read about his struggles with panic attacks and anxiety. It broke my heart to read about all of the suffering and loneliness he endures as a result of his illness. I found confront in his supportive parents, but my anger at all of the souls who tormented him increased with every page. When he finally meets Lisa and begins to emit joy and laughter, I could not help but feel a bittersweet happiness for Sol. However, I deeply struggled with Lisa's character. I really, really tried to forgive her for manipulating Sol, but I couldn't see past her selfish motivations. Luckily, her boyfriend Clark is AWESOME. Basically, he is the kind of guy every girl dreams of finding someday. He is nerdy, funny, and truly sensitive to the emotions of others. I loved how he treats Sol with genuine kindness and sees the negative aspects of his girlfriend's plan.
As I read the book, I found myself deeply connected to the scenes involving Sol and his Grandma. I love how their relationship is based on acceptance and trust, and her character acts as the guiding force in Sol's life. I also really appreciated how Whaley veered away from the stereotype of teenagers never spending time with their parents. Both of Sol's parents are incredibly supportive of their son, and Sol obviously finds true joy while playing games and spending time with them. During the scenes when Sol has panic attacks, I almost cried as I wished for him to someday find peace and happiness. Whaley did an amazing job of depicting the nature of panic attacks and anxiety in a way that felt real. He steers away from the idea of Sol being permanently "cured" from anxiety after only a few months. Instead, he shows readers how there are good days and bad days, but hope is always there waiting around the corner. Every turn of the page was a fresh wave of raw emotion whether it was joy, sorrow, or hope.
Overall, I would recommend this book to any teenagers or adults seeking a novel about mental health that helps the reader to gain insight on the truth about anxiety. While anxiety may be difficult to accurately write about, I feel Whaley set a new standard with Highly Illogical Behavior.
Paige Nolan feels helpless despite her martial arts skills and fluency in several languages when her journalist parents are captured by terrorists while they pursue their next story. She struggles to find peace, and she balances her time between three boyfriends and wondering if her parents are still alive. For a while, she denies their livelihood. It is easier to handle the stresses of life if she accepts her parents' death. Then Madden Carter shows up.
Before she knows it, Madden Carter reveals his true identity. He is an undercover operative with a mission for Paige. Find Sean Raynes, the man who revealed America's unconstitutional spying techniques and uncover any further information he has about the United States government. If she succeeds, Madden promises to reopen the once-closed case on Paige's parents. Suddenly, Paige becomes a foreign exchange student in Russia as she leaves her old life behind in order to find out the truth about both Sean Raynes and her parents.
Overall, I was really pleased with this novel. I picked it up in the bookstore unsure of what to expect, and I was pleasantly surprised. Paige's character is endearing, and she personifies the ideal female protagonist. She never bothers to worry about the opinion of others, and she manages to maintain a love life while also being intelligent and an amazing fighter. Her wide array of boyfriends may be a tad alarming at first, but her character quickly grows as she learns to see relationships as more than a distraction from her emotional turmoil.
The side characters such as Katerina, Raynes, and Madden all have distinct personalities, and I really appreciated what each one added to the story. Despite unusual circumstances, Katerina and Paige form a bond which helps Paige to discover the benefits of friendship. Raynes maintains a mysterious and intriguing persona as Paige slowly chips away at his deepest secrets. Madden's snarky commentary breaks the tension whenever Paige is worried. All of the characters made for a fabulous story. My only regret is that I wish there had been more of Madden!
The story tied up well, but enough was left unanswered that a sequel could someday occur. The ending, while somewhat predictable, left me satisfied as I turned the final pages. The story was an easy read, and I could certainly see it as the perfect book to pick up, start, and finish on a summer afternoon. I would recommend it to any teenage girl looking for a quick read that will provide a few hours of fun in the world of female spies and mysterious traitors.