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Content/Trigger Warnings: Death (off page), murder (off page), violence, blood depictions, police brutality, explosions, child abuse & neglect, child abandonment, grooming, anxiety & panic attack depictions, abduction/kidnapping, stalking, adult-minor relationships, PTSD/trauma, brief mention of disordered eating, underage drinking
I think I’m just as surprised as everyone else when it comes to how this book made me feel. Anyone who knows me, they know I praise Ancrum’s books and taking a hard stand for them. This was even a highly anticipated read especially because it’s a Peter Pan retelling. However, this book came out of left field and smacked me straight into a whirlwind of mixed feelings, and actually ended up being very triggering. Honestly, I feel like I’ve read an entirely different book compared to everyone else due to everything that is this book. So I sat on this review, how I wanted to rate this read, and disassociated from this book for several days just so I could write this review as critically, but as thoroughly as I could.
Wendy just moved to Chicago with her family, but of course with every move, there are always complications. Upon unpacking, Wendy discovers her bedroom window is broken and isn’t able to stay closed. And after an intruder has been caught by their dog, Wendy is feeling incredibly unsafe. Even more so when the intruder comes back and Wendy suddenly finds herself being dragged into the depths of something bigger than she ever anticipated.
“It’s like a shadow. Hides what needs to be hidden for just long enough.”
Like previous books by this author, this book is just as atmospheric as all the others. A great story has the power to not only pull you in with the writing, but the little details that we easily get caught up in. Truly, Ancrum has a talent for weaving all of these together for a story you won’t forget. That’s probably the biggest thing that I always love about these stories. The atmosphere is unsettling, uncomfortable, and bound to cause an uneasy tension as you read this book. That’s probably why I couldn’t shake the chills I had constantly during my time reading this book.
Of course, we have a diverse cast of characters who we meet. Our main character Wendy is Black, we have a side character who is Korean, more characters of color, and even Chippewa (Objiwe). We also get introduced to a side character named Fyodor who’s asexual and Wendy’s friend, Eleanor, Tinkerbelle, and Omi are all lesbian. There’s also a fantastic scene with Drag Queens and my heart was giddy with delight. And of course, let’s talk about Detective Hook who has an amputated hand. I always love seeing characters with disabilities represented in books because they truly don’t get enough attention.
As with every book that has family dynamics, I have to talk about it. There are various discussions and exploration of family. These topics hit so close to my heart and even though some of the discussions weren’t the best, they were so very much needed. I won’t talk too much because I don’t want to spoil anything, but truly, one of the best parts of the entire book. There’s also a lot of found family themes and that’s one of my favorite things in books. I always say we need more books with found family and this author always hits the nail on the head with found family themes and dynamics.
However, despite all of these positive things, they weren’t enough to sway how this book made me feel and how triggering this book was for my reading experience. To put it bluntly, I had a lot of issues with this book and so, I want to openly address them as non-spoilery and as ‘not too personal’ as I can manage.
For starters, I want to address the situation I find often when non-Indigenous authors write Native/Indigenous representation. And sometimes, I really wish authors just didn’t touch something with a ten-foot pole. The author uses the term ‘American Indian’ in this book and I know there will be people who see this and will be like, “Well, what’s wrong with that? That doesn’t seem like a big deal or that seems accurate.” Actually, it is a big deal because majority of Native/Indigenous people don’t like to be referred to as ‘American Indian.’ Actually, even on majority of legal paperwork the term used often is referred to as ‘Native American.’ Most Native/Indigenous people I know usually prefer to be referred to as Native, Native American, First Nations, The People, or just have their specific tribe said. Example, I personally prefer being referred to as Native or Mescalero Apache. Plain and simple. Saying ‘American Indian’ is often received as a slap to the face and a reminder of what history has done to Native/Indigenous people, to which that history still continues to this day. It’s not hard to respectfully talk to Native/Indigenous people and respectfully ask these questions.
“You’re better than he is. Remember that. He’s smart but he’s alone, and he always will be.”
Now for the core reason of why I had a lot of issues getting through this book. This book didn’t just trigger my PTSD once, but it actually triggered it twice. I really wish more effort was put into listing content/trigger warnings at the very beginning of this book because you truly never know who is reading your book. Not only did the abduction/kidnapping scene hit so close to home with my own, personal abduction, but the twist (that’s also predictable) that comes later on in the book was probably the worst reminder and will probably leave you feeling incredibly icky like it did with me. I won’t go into details, but by the stars, this was not it friends. It could be the fact this is a dark contemporary and contemporary tends to live hand in hand with our own world events, but the details were on the heavy side and probably weren’t necessary. I think the twist is going to be something everyone loves or absolutely hates and I’m definitely on the strongly disliking side of things. And let me just say, if you are one of those people who have read this book, sitting here saying, “Oh, these things don’t actually happen.” Yes, yes they freaking do and they’re truly horrifying experiences to live through, and to continue living with the reminders of. This just wasn’t it for me and honestly, this alone should have caused me to ‘dnf’ this book.
My other major issue with this book was the main character and the main character’s parents. Starting with the parents, they were constantly contradicting themselves throughout the parts where we see them. We have these parents who are established as parents who are overprotective and are all about safety, but yet there are constant scenes that throw this detail out the window. A perfect example, Wendy’s bedroom window. The window should have been a top priority for safety reasons especially after it’s clear someone has been trying to break into their home, but it gets put on the backburner. We do have a little scene where Mr. Darling offers to move Wendy into another room, but Wendy declines. Despite that, it was still hard to believe these as realistic, protective parents. As for Wendy, I really didn’t like her as a main character. In the very beginning she’s established as a brilliant young woman with a loving, caring side to her, but throughout this book, all you see is an arrogant young girl who is constantly being disrespectful to those who are trying to help her (also disrespectful to her parents), too oblivious to realize the kind of situation she’s really gotten herself into, and in many scenes being a very self-serving character. Sadly, Wendy missed the mark greatly for me as a main character, but seeing her in the epilogue, that was fantastic and I did enjoy seeing her after everything was said and done.
“I like you, Wendy. You’re sharp and you don’t let people push you around, I respect that. I just wanted you to know that I wouldn’t put this effort in if I didn’t think a girl like you deserved it.”
Overall, this just wasn’t the book for me, friends. This isn’t a bad book and I know this is probably coming off as a harsh rating or even a harsh review, but to my own rating system, this is a true two star rating for me. This book had things I enjoyed, but just didn’t hit the enjoyment mark for me. This just wasn’t the book for me and honestly, I should have stepped away around the 30-40% mark. I think there will be many readers, especially lovers of this author’s previous work, who will enjoy this book and I think there will be many readers like myself who feel frustrated, disappointed, or maybe even feeling their own past looming over them after reading this book. I still recommend this book, but just know that this is a dark contemporary and while the ending is a happy one, this book is a dark, ominous story for the soul.
Buddy Read with Destiny ♥