Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell

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Title: Unhooked
Author: Lisa Maxwell
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 352
Source: ARC provided by Simon & Schuster Canada
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Overall: 4.5 STARS

SUMMARY
From “talented wordsmith” (Publishers Weekly) Lisa Maxwell comes a lush, atmospheric fantasy novel filled with twists and turns about a girl who is kidnapped and brought to an island inhabited by fairies, a roguish ship captain, and bloodthirsty beasts.

For as long as she can remember, Gwendolyn Allister has never had a place to call home. Her mother believes they are being hunted by brutal monsters, and those delusions have brought them to London, far from the life Gwen had finally started to build for herself. Gwen’s only saving grace is that her best friend, Olivia, is with her for the summer.

But shortly after their arrival, the girls are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and dragged to a world of flesh-eating sea hags and dangerous Fey. And Gwen begins to realize that maybe her mother isn’t so crazy after all…

Gwen discovers that this new world she inhabits is called Neverland, but it’s nothing like the Neverland you’ve heard about in stories. Here, good and evil lose their meaning and memories slip like water through your fingers. As Gwen struggles to remember where she came from and tries to find a way home, she must choose between trusting the charming fairy-tale hero who says all the right things and the captivating pirate who promises to keep her safe.

Caught in the ultimate battle between good and evil, with time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to finally face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But can she save Neverland without losing herself?
 


MY THOUGHTS
Lisa Maxwell's Unhooked is at once comforting in its familiarity, yet also wholly unique as a YA fantasy. It reads like an eerie, darkly enchanting fairy tale—and not the Disney version. This reimagining of J.M. Barrie's classic Peter Pan carries you away to a world that is feral, haunting, and unforgiving. Unhooked drew me in right from the beginning and didn't release its grasp until reaching the epilogue.

For as long as she can remember, Gwen and her mother have moved across the world every few years like they they were being chased by monsters. Her mother can lose herself in her art for months, but then she slowly becomes nervous and withdrawn, signaling it's time to move. Just when Gwen thought they'd finally found a place they could settle and call home, her mother uproots their lives again for London, England.

Gwen's new residence is hardly glamorous, mainly musty and worn with age, but she takes comfort in the fact her best friend, Olivia, could join her in London for the rest of the summer. But when Gwen and Olivia are kidnapped by shadowy Fey beings called the Dark Ones, she realizes her mother was right all along—monsters are very real.

Unlike the stories, Neverland isn't a place to seek for grand, thrilling adventures. And the Fey who inhabit the island do not leave a trail of pixie dust in their wake; they are graceful and deadly when their glamours have fallen. Gwen awakens to find herself rescued by a handsome, roguish pirate who promises to keep her safe on his ship. But then there's the charismatic Pan, who knows just the right words to say and can lead her to Olivia. Gwen doesn't know who she can trust, only that she would do anything to leave Neverland and return home.

What made Lisa Maxwell's Unhooked such a captivating read was its stunning descriptions of Neverland. The visual details brought the story to life, and it felt like the events were leaping right off the pages and unfolding before your very eyes. Neverland became more than just a setting; it was a powerful, living entity that showed mercy to no one. An uncanny feeling lingers in the pages that never fully disappears. Gwen can't escape it. And I couldn't either.

I admired Gwen's determination to rescue her friend at all costs. Her loyalty was one of her greatest strengths, but it was also a weakness, for it meant she could be short-sighted in sensing danger. (So even when you're shouting at her to trust a certain pirate that you're rooting for, she doesn't necessarily listen.) I think the only thing I didn't really like about Gwen's character right away was her resistance to believing that Neverland was real and the Fey exist. I mean, girl, the island is right in front of you!

Anyways, I really loved that I was never quite sure what to expect in Unhooked, that Peter Pan may be an obvious inspiration, but the story can still stand on its one. And the new interpretations of Captain Hook and Pan? Well, they both carry secrets, that's for sure... but I will leave it to you to discover who's the hero and villain in this tale. I hope you've added Lisa Maxwell's Unhooked to your TBR!

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