Continue below to read my review of the book and interview with Aiden, then be sure to follow this link - [TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on the 'LOST IN THE NEVER WOODS' blog tour brought to you by SWOON READS, AIDEN THOMAS, and XPRESSO BOOK TOURS!
'Lost in the Never Woods' is the newest YA Fantasy release by Aiden Thomas, author of 'Cemetery Boys.' Though it was written first and was meant to be their debut novel, 'Cemetery Boys' sort of took on a life of its own as their option title and it was bumped ahead.
A beautiful, somber retelling of Peter Pan, 'Lost in the Never Woods' follows a teenage Wendy Darling.. five years after she and her two brothers went missing in the woods. Unable to recall the time she was lost and still blaming herself for being unable to keep her brothers safe, when children start to go missing again in the local woods, she's thrust back into the middle of tragedy.
When Peter shows up unexpectedly, a boy she believed to be just a childhood story told to her by her mother, he asks for her help to rescue the missing children. But something ominous waits for her in the woods and she must overcome her fear to face it.
I'll be honest. I've always loved the Peter Pan story. I'm not sure I've ever read or watched an incarnation of it that I've disliked. There's something fascinating about a story that takes place in the infinite youth presented, that while I'd never want to experience it.. I'm so intrigued with what the characters might do or feel because of it.
In that way, this story is no different. What makes it stand out is the approach to the subject matter. These characters have suffered, they're not inherently wicked as in some retellings, but rather beset upon by something beyond their ability to control. They're damaged in their own ways, struggling to overcome their situations, but there's still a beauty to them.
Atmospherically, while there are moments of joy and playfulness, the mood is heavy. Wendy endures survivor's guild and her family has never been the same since the disappearances. They interact with each other through this dance of grief, the love is still there.. but at times it's so buried under each person's own self-blame, it can be harder to see. Individually, they're all trying to cope in their own ways and it takes so little to shake those fragile foundations.
Peter too is a much sadder boy than the one we typically see. His bright eyes and almost eager sense of humor seem much more the armor he steels himself with, than the easy carefree existence we've known. To me, he feels incredibly lonely and my heart breaks for him as much as it does poor Wendy.
All in all, it's a wonderful read full of emotional layers and adventures you're never too old to experience. If you like Peter Pan or fairy tale retellings in general, I highly recommend giving this book a read. You'll be glad you did.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aiden Thomas is a New York Times Bestselling author with an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College.
Originally from Oakland, California, they now make their home in Portland, Oregon.
As a queer, trans Latinx, Aiden advocates strongly for diverse representation in all media. Aiden’s special talents include: quoting The Office, winning Jenga, finishing sentences with “is my FAVORITE”, and killing spiders. Aiden is notorious for not being able to guess the endings of books and movies, and organizes their bookshelves by color.
☆★☆ Interview with Aiden Thomas ☆★☆
Several times, you've said that while you decided to debut with Cemetery Boys, the novel you'd originally planned first.. Lost in the Never Woods.. is an incredibly personal story for you too, would you tell us a bit about that connection?
“Cemetery Boys” is so important to me because it’s so much about my identity, but “Lost in the Never Woods” is super personal because, at its core, it’s a story about trauma. I started writing LITNW when I was first diagnosed with C-PTSD, and it was a really cathartic way of me processing my own experiences with mental health, trauma and grief. I wanted to write a book about those experiences and for others who have gone through similar experiences, especially for teens and young adults who were forced to grow up too fast and had adulthood thrust upon them.
I understand while you were an undergrad you wrote about the psychological trauma of Peter Pan and how that affected who he was. Would you mind sharing those thoughts with us?
Oh my gosh, yes! That’s where my obsession with Peter Pan started! When I first watched the 2003 Peter Pan film adaptation, at one point Peter Pan says, “I want always to be a boy, and have fun” and Wendy replies, “You say so, but I think it is your biggest pretend.” That line just STUCK with me, I rewatched the movie and then read the original book by JM Barrie. At this point I already know I wanted to double major in psychology and English so I did this deep dive and tried to figure out Peter as a character.
One of the first things I realized was that he has dissociative amnesia from a line where he states that he forgets people after he kills them. There’s really so many examples of Peter dealing with trauma, which spiraled out into me wondering what would happen to Wendy after her experiences in Neverland, and that’s how the original idea for “Lost in the Never Woods” was sparked!
I know you did a good bit of research on Mesoamerican culture for Cemetery Boys, was there any research involved for Lost in the Never Woods or is it a story purely from the heart?
I think it’s definitely both. I did a lot of literary theory research of the original Peter Pan story, and then I also brought in my personal experiences and academic research about mental health and specifically trauma. I always thought Wendy never got the story she deserved! She’s such a unique and complex character who is often overlooked by Peter’s much more dominating presence, so I wanted to give her her very own story and focus. Peter is cool, but Wendy has a really special place in my heart.
This is probably like asking you to choose between your plant children.. but who's your favorite character to write in Lost in the Never Woods.. and why?
Peter was fun to write because he’s flighty and scatter-brained, but I really enjoy the challenge of writing Wendy! It was definitely like a case study in writing about what fear and anxiety feels and affects us. She’s really complicated and going through a lot, so she’s probably the hardest character I’ve ever written, but I think I did a good job and I hope readers can connect and kind kinship with her.
Since you enjoyed Hill House (created by Mike Flanagan) and Hannibal (created by Bryan Fuller), have you checked out any creepy new shows like Flanagan's The Haunting of Bly Manor?
YES! I thought Bly Manor was absolutely brilliant! I think I’m an outlier when I say that scary TV shows and movies are my comfort media? I’ll put on Hill House to fall asleep to all the time. Talk about a story that really explores trauma and complex characters!
What are three songs on your playlist for Lost in the Never Woods?
Oh my gosh this is always one of my favorite questions! I have a whole dedicated playlist for “Lost in the Never Woods” which you can find (below):
But the top three songs I associate with LITNW are:
“Crime” by Grey with Skott
“Out of the Woods” by Taylor Swift
“Cardigan” by Taylor Swift