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Reviewed by Sam Turner
Opening sentence
Hourglasses are a delicate, precise way to keep time enslaved.
Natalya M. Newman has created something great with her reimagining of Peter Pan. Although Second Star to the Right is a new spin on J. M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy, Newman has made it entirely her own, with a great storyline and likeable characters.  

When Peter Pan sweeps Wendy Darling off to Neverland so that she can share her stories with its inhabitants, Tinkerbell plays a prank on the Lost Boys and Wendy finds herself in the care of Tigerlily. While Wendy explores Neverland with her new friend, Peter’s mind starts to unravel.  

When the magical flute that protects the heart of Neverland is stolen, Peter leads the Lost Boys on an expedition to retrieve it so that he can trade it with Tigerlily and win Wendy back. All the while, Captain Hook hunts down Peter to destroy him once and for all. 

Second Star to the Right was an interesting read. I loved the dark, brooding prologue, and Natalya M. Newman successfully tricked me into thinking that the entire book would follow along the same lines.  

Newman’s ability to paint a vivid image in my head was so good that I felt like I was right there, watching the story play out. She used amazing descriptive language, and her version of Neverland is unique and highly creative.  

There were subtle LGBTQ+ vibes all through the story, and toying with the idea of a romantic relationship between Wendy and Tigerlily really added impact to the storyline. I love how Newman managed to incorporate this without making it overwhelm or dominate the storyline, which it does in a lot of young adult fiction. 

Another very clever effect that Newman has employed is the way that things are viewed depending on who is telling the story. For example, when the story is being told by one of the young Lost Boys, the problems they face seem less threatening. However, when the story is from an older character’s perspective, things suddenly appear darker and more disturbing. 

I found it interesting that the main storyteller changed much more than any other book I’ve read; sometimes twice in one sentence. It was unusual to hear so many people’s views and feelings and often I had to focus hard to understand whose thoughts were whose. It was an unusual way of writing but as the book progressed, I began to enjoy it more and more, although at first it was slightly difficult to understand. 

At times, I did struggle with how the characters acted. Sometimes, their decisions and feelings just didn’t seem natural, but I suppose the story is often told from the perspective of the very young Lost Boys, who will act differently from more mature characters. 

I think Newman has done a good job with Second Star to the Right. She successfully blended a traditional tale with a vast number of original ideas, and the result is a dark, magical story full of plot twists and turns. Of course, it’s not flawless, but sometimes the best stories aren’t. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, by Christopher Paolini, is a great example of this. Although Paolini even admitted in the afterword that his novel isn’t perfect, it is still one of my favourite books. 

Reading Second Star to the Right was an interesting experience with mixed emotions, but by the time I reached the end I realised how much I had enjoyed it. I would encourage absolutely anyone to try it, but I think fans of authors like C. S. Pacat and Pascale Lacelle would enjoy it the most. It is an impressive debut novel, and I would be keen to read any of Newman’s future works. 

- Sam is 13 and lives in Nelson.
Publisher: Self-published
ISBN: 978-0473693930
Format: Paperback
Publication: 2023
Ages: 15+
Themes: Fantasy, growing up, emotions, LGBTQIA+