For as long as she can remember, Gwendolyn Allister has never had a place to call home—all because her mother believes that monsters are hunting them. Now these delusions have brought them to London, far from the life Gwen had finally started to build for herself. The only saving grace is her best friend, Olivia, who’s coming with them for the summer.
But when Gwen and Olivia are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and taken to a world of flesh-eating sea hags and dangerous Fey, Gwen realizes her mom might have been sane all along.
The world Gwen finds herself in is called Neverland, yet it’s nothing like the stories. Here, good and evil lose their meaning and memories slip like water through her fingers. As Gwen struggles to remember where she came from and find a way home, she must choose between trusting the charming fairy-tale hero who says all the right things and the roguish young pirate who promises to keep her safe.
With time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But will she be able to save Neverland without losing herself?
Let me get this out first: Peter Pan is one of my all time favorite fairy tales and definitely one of my favorite Disney movies. So of course I had to buy “Unhooked” when I found out it was a darker retelling of Peter Pan, unfortunately it fell pretty short for me and I was ultimately disappointed with it. Sure there were a few interesting parts but they weren’t good enough to distract me from this book’s flaws.
This got really confusing by the end of the book and therefore my thoughts are also quite confused, I apologize in advance if some of my points get a little tangled. It’s hard not to rant about my issues with this book!
It starts off pretty solid and interesting we get a little background on Gwen and we find out her and her mom have been on the run their whole lives from “monsters” right before Gwen and her friend Olivia are kidnapped and smuggled off to Neverland. So there’s some little tidbits here and there that piqued my curiosity and kept me reading such as: why was Gwen’s mom always running from these monsters? Who was Gwen’s dad and where did he go? etc. That kind of stuff. Gwen then lands herself on Captain Hook’s ship and the story goes from there.
However, as the story proceeds the plot gets messier and more confusing with many, many things not getting answered. The only thing this book has in common with the Peter Pan story are the names of Captain Hook and Peter Pan himself and that it’s set in Neverland. That’s about it. I know that retellings take elements of the originals and then twist it and such but I wanted MORE with this book. Really the entire book is a romance between Gwen and “Captain Hook” with other plot elements being used to make the book seem like it’s about other things when it actually isn’t. It’s all about that romance.
The world building of this twisted version of Neverland was extremely lacking as were any explanations about events that took place in it. I was asking myself, “Yeah…but why?” way more than I should have.
The thing that pissed me off about this book the most was the ending. It was waaaaaay too rushed, confusing, and messy. When I say rushed I mean rushed, it was like Maxwell was told to end this entire story with one page out of nowhere. If you’re going to write a standalone then don’t wait until the last 10 pages to suddenly bring an unsatisfying conclusion to your story. Maybe if there was less time spent building a slow burn romance then we would have had an actual ending that made sense.
However, the number one reason I thought the ending to “Unhooked” was a disaster was because the romance took precedence over the friendship. Gwen got kidnapped with her best (and only) friend Olivia remember? What does she do the whole time she’s there? Look for her best friend, right? Kind of, when Gwen isn’t too busy making goo-goo eyes at Hook. Since I don’t want to actually spoil the ending though, I can’t say the whys or hows. Just know that in this book friendship gets trumped and that’s not something I enjoy in my books.
Also when you want to market your book as a “dark” retelling you need to add a little more than a few monsters. When you say dark I want dark, evil, and downright twisted.
So what did I actually like about the book? I enjoyed some of the darker twists to Neverland and the inclusion of Dark and Light Fae, also this book was very fast-paced which is one of the few reasons I could read through it. Short of all that though I wasn’t too happy.
Gwen was just….okay. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. Is it a good thing? Not really. I want MORE from my characters than just okay-ness. Gwen was a pretty passive character and wasn’t as complex as I would have liked she sort of just let things happen and never really took charge herself. Gwen was one of those characters you yell at through the entire book telling her to do stuff or quit doing certain things, you know the drill. One of the few things I liked about her was her loyalty to her friend Olivia, however that really wanes by the end of the book. Overall she was sort of just a dull main character that I didn’t relate to at all.
Besides Gwen the only other important characters were Hook and Pan. I actually really liked Hook’s character in this book because he’s clever, calculating, and a bit snarky. The twist with his character is that he isn’t as bad as our original Hook.This Hook is actually quite compassionate and it’s very endearing, he really loves the boys that are under is care. Thus making him by far my favorite character in this book.
As far as Pan’s character though, I didn’t like him and that was very disappointing since of course my favorite Peter Pan character is Peter Pan. He was just a really flat character for me and of course since this is a twisted retelling Pan isn’t exactly our original hero, however, I didn’t buy it. He wasn’t bad and he wasn’t good, he was boring. This Pan just doesn’t do the original any justice even for a twisted version.
There were some very minuscule secondary characters and as with the main ones, weren’t all that interesting. There’s a few named “lost boys” and some other Fae but honestly if they were all cut from the story I don’t think it would change too much. Even Olivia, the main BFF, isn’t as important as one might think. She’s easily forgotten in the tangle of the romantic plot line.
Want to know another big reason I picked this book up? The hint of a love triangle between Gwen and Hook and Pan. I’m not gonna lie, I got very excited by the thought of that since I’ve always loved the story of Peter Pan and having a YA version with a cute Hook and Pan with a love triangle was a dream come true. I usually hate love triangles but come on this sounded great! Unfortunately this was not the case at all…..
The romance is pretty much strictly between Gwen and Hook, color me disappointed. It’s a pretty slow-burn romance which I liked but I just didn’t feel a lot of chemistry and I didn’t like how it continued after certain plot points at the end of the story, I can’t really elaborate without spoilers so I just won’t. The entire story had to change and evolve to make the romance work and that’s something I don’t like in my books, there should be a good, solid story that shouldn’t revolve completely around the romance.
As I mentioned early too, the romance trumps the friendship. Not my style.
Ultimately this book was disappointing and it was disappointing that it was disappointing. That all adds up to a lot of general disappointment, right?
The plot was a complete mess and terribly confusing, the romance outdid the friendship factor, and none of the reasons I love the original Peter Pan story were apparent here even for a darker retelling, the main character was bland and passive.
Overall, this is not the Peter Pan retelling you’re looking for.
Nope, especially if you’re a big Peter Pan fan and definitely not if you’re looking for a good love triangle with a hot Hook and Pan. You will find none of that here and if you’re looking for a dark, twisted Neverland you could look in better places than in “Unhooked”. For example I’ve heard GREAT things about “The Child Thief” by Brom, that’s supposedly a very dark version of Peter Pan and has nothing but great reviews. I have yet to read it but I think it’s safe to recommend that in place of this.