Everland by Wendy Spinale
Published by Scholastic, May 10, 2016. Hardcover of 320 pages at $17.99. Also available in ebook and audio formats. Intended for ages 12 and up, Grades 7 and up.
Note: I read an advanced copy so anything may have changed by publication.
The cover: Gold flitters down from the title to lead viewers to the back of a blonde haired young girl wearing a yellow top, blue jeans, black boots, and metallic wings as she runs off into the darkness. The author’s name is just below this single image and it’s definitely a smart illustration to peak readers’ interests to get them to pick this book up. The jacket art is by Jacey and the design is by Christopher Stengel. Overall grade: A
The premise: From the inside front cover, “London has been destroyed in a blitz of bombs and disease. The only ones who have survived the destruction and the outbreak of a deadly virus are children, among them sixteen-year-old Gwen Darling and her younger siblings, Joanna and Mikey. They spend their nights scavenging, and their days spent avoiding the deadly Marauders—the German army led by the cutthroat Captain Hanz Otto Oswald Kretschmer. Unsure if the virus has spread past England’s borders but desperate to leave, Captain Hook is on the hunt for a cure, which he thinks can be found in one of the surviving children. He and his Marauders stalk the streets snatching children for experimentation. None ever returns. Until one day when they grab Joanna. Gwen will stop at nothing to get her sister back, but as she sets out, she crosses paths with a mysterious and charismatic boy named Pete. Pete offers the assistance of his gang of Lost Boys and the fierce sharpshooter Bella, who have all been living in a city hidden underground. But in a place where help has a steep price and every promise is bound by blood, it might cost Gwen more than she bargained for. And are Gwen, Pete, the Lost Boys, and Bella enough to outsmart the ruthless Captain Hook?” Based on this summary, this looks to be a nice reimagining of the Peter Pan story, with some modern day horrors such as disease. I’ve read several books that play with Pan’s tale, so I’m hoping that Spinale can create something I’ve not read before. I’m looking forward to this. Overall grade: A-
The characters: The book is told from two points of view: Gwen and Hook. Gwen is the character who introduces the reader to the horrors of an adult free world, where existence seems fleeting, due to the disease and the invaders. She’s nervous about her sister who shows signs of the illness with blisters on her fingers, but she doesn’t know what’s to be done. She’s at first put off by cocky Pete, but as the book progresses and she, and the reader, learn more about him, those feelings turn to love. However, saving her sister is first in her heart. What Spinale does with Hook was very impressive. He is the villain, to be sure, but there are moments—and they are wonderful—where he shows moments of humanity and the reader suspects that he might reconsider his path. Those were fantastic, and the way Spinale dangles them, I thought he could change. Pete is similar enough in origin to the classic J.M. Barrie character to be familiar, but what’s been changed about him makes him very original and very entertaining. Bella is the character on the cover and she’s this tale’s Tinkerbell. She’s the only other girl beside Gwen who lives with the Lost Boys and she’s got all the fire and spunk of the iconic pixie, and she has quite a few surprises up her sleeve as well. There are several Lost Boys singled out from the crowd, with Doc and Mole being favorites, though one has a dark secret that could spell doom. There is a character older than Hook in the novel whose use he needs and this individual’s identity is easily fathomed by adults, but could remain unknown until revealed to younger readers. There’s enough of the familiar with all the characters to expect certain actions, but enough has been created by the author to make them very engaging. Overall grade: A
The settings: This is a Steampunk London; at least is starts that way. There are steam powered contraptions to take Hook about the city and the Jolly Roger is a zeppelin. Microscopes exist as does electricity. However, after the introduction of the Lost City, which has an amazing description, the Steampunk elements fade away; they are there, just not as much. I wanted this to have more of the genre’s elements, but they disappeared after the Gwen and Mikey joined the gang. London is bombed out, full of the dead and smoldering ruins. The characters make their way in and about these locales and it is fun to see what Spinale has done to the Empire. Her descriptions of buildings and locations are good and were easily pictured as they were encountered. Overall grade: B+
The action: The action roughly follows the events of the classic story, though the addition of guns and a countdown clock, of what the disease will do to infected characters, speeds the characters on their missions. Bella was a particularly stand out in action, given the nature of her weapon of choice, and when Pete gets into a fight near the end of the book, it’s very exciting. The tension was strong enough to keep me flipping through pages quickly. Overall grade: A
The conclusion: A solid conclusion, with a few surprises, with the door left open for more tales. The inside cover of my copy stated this is Book 1, so more could be in store and I would more than welcome Spinale returning to this world and these characters. Overall grade: A
The final line: An enjoyable reimagining of the classic tale, with several extremely clever additions. Should the trip be too dark as you read, grab some of Bella’s pixie dust to light your way. Recommended for young readers and fans of Pan. Overall grade: A