Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

second starReviewed by Janell

Disclosure: I’m kind of a Peter Pan fangirl, in the sense that I have a weird crush on the Disney version of Peter Pan. I may have a ceramic figurine and a Barbie doll of him displayed in my basement. However, I don’t love him enough to read the original books (I tried, once, but he was too young, and my love for him felt wrong in that version), so I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on any Pan lore outside of the Disney movie. But, I’m in favor of any riff on the story that involves lurve, and this particular novel kind of sort of hinted at it.

Second Star is a YA narrated by Wendy in the first person, present tense. She’s been on autopilot for months, ever since her 16-year-old twin brothers Michael and John disappeared. The police have closed the case since evidence points to them drowning in a surfing accident. But Wendy thinks they could still be alive, somewhere, chasing waves. She’s just graduated from high school and decides to drive up the California coast, searching every beach for clues. Her parents are checked out enough that they barely notice what she’s up to.

Wendy discovers a perfect hidden beach below a cliff of abandoned luxury homes (abandoned, because the cliff is unstable). Pete and some other boys are squatting there, spending their days surfing and their nights sleeping on the floor of an empty house with beach towels for bedding. Pete’s quasi-ex-girlfriend Belle lives with them, too.

Wendy moves in with them to figure out whether her brothers might have stopped there, too, and she kind of falls for Pete because he’s graceful on a surfboard and her hand fits in his and they can kiss for hours. She fixes them dinner once: “for just a few minutes, it feels like Pete and I are about twenty years older than we actually are, like we’re the parents and these are our kids sitting around the blanket.” She also learns how to surf, and assists with a supply run/home robbery.

Wendy’s dream state is interrupted when Belle betrays her. Wendy then runs to the local fairy dust drug dealer, Jas, to pick up her brothers’ trail. I couldn’t fit Jas into the Peter Pan tale, by the way; Pete hates him but he’s no Captain Hook. Wendy falls for Jas, because YA novels have love triangles, but I give her credit for wondering how it’s possible to “feel such intense emotions for two different people, one right after the other.”

Ultimately, this isn’t a love story. It’s the story of Wendy coping with her brothers’ disappearance. The final third gets far-fetched, but then Wendy’s narration is called into question, making the reader question just about everything. The author handles the story’s direction gracefully, even when things don’t end as planned. I wouldn’t recommend the book as a love story, but it’s a well-written interpretation of Peter Pan and a poetic tale of coping with grief.

Rating: B

Click to purchase: Amazon

Second Star
by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Release Date: May 13, 2014
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

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