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James Hook is a child who only wants to grow up.
When he meets Peter Pan, a boy who loves to pretend and is intent on never becoming a man, James decides he could try being a child - at least briefly. James joins Peter Pan on a holiday to Neverland, a place of adventure created by children's dreams, but Neverland is not for the faint of heart. Soon James finds himself longing for home, determined that he is destined to be a man. But Peter refuses to take him back, leaving James trapped in a world just beyond the one he loves. A world where children are to never grow up.
But grow up he does.
And thus begins the epic adventure of a Lost Boy and a Pirate.
This story isn't about Peter Pan; it's about the boy whose life he stole. It's about a man in a world that hates men. It's about the feared Captain James Hook and his passionate quest to kill the Pan, an impossible feat in a magical land where everyone loves Peter Pan.
Never Never was an imaginative take on how Captain Hook came to be. But before starting, know that this definitely isn’t the story that we all grew up knowing. While there are some similarities, the differences are stark and bold! Shockingly, I came to loathe Peter Pan and to understand Captains Hook’s need for revenge. I desperately wanted him to fulfill that need for revenge! But as the story unfolded, there were parts that I struggled wrapping my head around. Parts where I slowly felt myself pulling away from Captain Hook and this made me sad because I was so ecstatic to read Never Never!
The darkness curled around him like a blanket, willing him to stay a while, whispering things to him that were at once comforting and terrible. When he could stand no longer, he covered his face with his hands. Then, he dropped to his knees in the dirt and wept.
Within the first few pages, I was fascinated by the world that had been created. Captain Hook, aka James Hook, was just a child who looked forward to growing up and becoming a man. His parents are loving yet stern, and he has a sibling that is on the way. I’ll admit, I never once thought of who Captain Hook was as a child. But I’m so glad we got to see that side of him, because I loved that strong yet needy child. He was imaginative yet knew what he wanted in life. After spending time around Peter Pan, he agreed to go away to Neverland. Temporarily. Or so he thought. But once in Neverland, he realized that he would never be going back home. And Hook grew up while Peter Pan and The Lost Boys didn’t. That changed him. It created a savage hatred towards Peter Pan and I rallied right behind that hatred!
He readied himself, as he always did when he expected a battle with Peter, and stood on the eerily quiet hull of the Spanish Main. Another crow, haunting and soft, and James steeled his nerves, preparing his mind to murder a child.
Oh, did I loath Peter Pan. He was such an unlikeable character. He was dark, sadistic, and a heartless killer. But at times, his emotions felt contradictory to me. One moment he would be happily laughing while acting like a child and in the next he would turn into this evil being that would slit the throat of a pirate who was sleeping. But make no mistake, I wasn’t upset about the fact that I detested Peter Pan. He was a far cry from the happy boy from the original story. So it was fun seeing him in a different light. But as the book trudged on, I started to get frustrated. His forgetfulness, his cruelty and his cold-heartedness was so intense and so shocking that I started questioning why he was that way and why he had so many followers. It felt as though I was missing some pieces of the puzzle. And eventually I tired of Peter Pan’s antics and looked forward to the scenes were he wasn’t present.
So of course I rooted for Captain Hook to kill Peter Pan. Who wouldn’t want to kill him?! But each time he got close, I felt let down. I understood Captain Hook’s weariness about killing a child, but he would set out to do just that, and then his plans would almost purposely fizzle. And this is how the majority of the book seemed to proceed and I struggled with that.
He caught her hand as she washed the blood away from his throat, and she looked up at him.
“Never apologize to me ,” he said, voice gravelly and tired. Older. “Thank you for your kindness. Now and years ago.”
One thing I did love in this book, well for a short while, was the relationship between Captain Hook and Tiger Lily. It was sweet, innocent and at times touching. I got excited that Captain Hook finally had a shot at peace and happiness. But sadly, I struggled with the direction they were taken. Tiger Lily’s decisions would leave me scratching my head and I don’t want to give away anything, but just know that I didn’t agree with a few “rationalizations” and those scenes left me feeling icky, mad and utterly sad.
So again, I found myself closing a book feeling conflicted and confused. Because on one hand, Never Never was extremely imaginative and was such a fun take on the original story that we all know. I enjoyed hearing Captain Hook’s side and rooting for him! But for me, Peter Pan was too dark, too evil and I could never find the why behind it all. And Tiger Lily’s relationship with Captain Hook left me in shambles at times. Oh, but the hardest part for me was the ending. After that last page I tried to click for more. I desperately wanted and needed an epilogue, yet there was none there. I would have preferred to know a little bit more about what happened to a few of the characters because I felt as though so much was left up in the air. But hopefully you’ll have better luck than me by being able to enjoy this story more fully than I was!
***ARC was kindly provided by Spencer Hill Press, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review***