“What would have brought them here,” Peter asked, a bitter spite sneaking into his tone, “once they found out there was more money to be made on Wall Street than in gold doubloons? Why be crooked pirates scheming for treasure they wouldn’t know how to spend when they could be honest businessmen with two cars in their garage and a summer home upstate?”
A nervous laugh left Gwen’s lips. Peter was talking about reality, and it surprised her to see how uncomfortable that made her.
“Why spend your whole life on the high seas looking for treasure,” Peter asked, talking to the clouds as he scaled a rope up what remained of a half-crumbled mast, “when you could have a promised paycheck in exchange for all the life you’d live between nine-and-five.”
I find myself escaping into books a lot, and it’s quite often at the expense of other things that need to get done. The house needs to be cleaned? That errand needs to be run? I need to participate in human relationships so they don’t crumble around me? Maybe later, but for now I’ll keep my head in some other world – an imaginary world, a better world. Sometimes when I’m not reading, I’ll find myself wishing I was able to magically escape from some of the overwhelming anxieties of day to day life. The Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse brought some of those same feelings out in me – familiar thoughts of wanting to escape from a sometimes meaningless day-to-day.
Gwen, our sixteen year old protagonist, is dealing with what any teenager might go through: crushes on boys, gossip with friends, and the life changing revelation that magic is indeed real and her little sister Rosemary has run away to Neverland with Peter Pan. Alright, so maybe Gwen has a little bit more on her plate than the normal teenage girl. Neverland Wars is a great read for people who are looking for that little bit of magic in their life – Greathouse weaves together some of the childhood Pan tales that you’ve heard, with some new twists on the old classic.
I wasn’t always sure throughout the book whether I should be rooting for Pan or not – I think there’s always a little bit of mystery when it comes to the idea of Lost Boys (and girls). Should I be rooting for these children to remain young forever, to experience a life enchanted, or should I be hoping that they’ll return home to their obviously grieving families? Maybe I’ve become part of the system that Greathouse writes about – the mundane world that can no longer see magic, who grew out of such childish things long ago, and couldn’t possibly understand anymore.
When Gwen tries to explain to her little sister what hormones are, and what they do to people who grow up, it felt strangely familiar: “They change everything inside of you, filling you up with seriousness, replacing all the parts of you that remember how to play with your toys and how to dress up. They make it so you hate when things don’t make sense. Then they make you so incredibly silly and irrational that you hate it when you realize nothing inside of you makes any sense. Finally, when you hate it enough, things start making sense again, and that’s when you’re an adult.”
Ouch. Talk about hitting where it hurts.
Because I, much like Gwen, want to believe in magic too. I want to know with certainty that the hurtful or overwhelming things in life aren’t all that’s out there. I want to feel hope that life can still hold mysteries beyond your imagination. I want to believe in fairies.
It seems that the general consensus (in this book as well as the real world) is that we, as adults, are at serious risk of losing that forever. Gwen sees it, and she’s only a few years older than the children that surround her in Neverland – she sees it in the way they recover from tragedy: “They ate without their usual exuberance, but there was a quiet hum of joy that gradually seeped into their conversation. It was a reverent, cautious joy, but it felt natural. Gwen struggled to recover… wishing she had not forgotten whatever it was that prevented children from dwelling on the misfortunes of life.” Isn’t that all we really want anyway? Maybe the magic that I seek in everyday life is something as simple as a reverent, cautious joy that feels natural.
The Neverland Wars is a quick and entertaining read, and I think anyone who craves a little bit of whimsy, or anyone who just loves the realm of fairy tales, could appreciate it. I was left wanting more, but luckily Greathouse has more for us in store – a second book (in a planned trilogy) is currently in the works. To check out more of her work, or keep up with her blog, visit audreygreathouse.com.
An Interview with Author Audrey Greathouse
What was your inspiration for The Neverland Wars?
A lot of things played into the inspiration for this story over the course of my senior year of high school. I’d grown up watching the play, but I read the actual Peter Pan novel for the first time that fall and started thinking about how I wished Peter would come for me still, and what the ramifications of that would be. One of the moments that I think really cemented my desire to write this book was during prom when Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” came on and I realized I’d never dreamed about doing any of the things she was singing about. After I got done having an existential crisis on the dance floor, I decided I would write a book about all the impossible things I had spent my teen years dreaming about.
Have you always felt drawn to sci-fi/fantasy? Any other genres that you’ve written?
Speculative “what-if” fiction has always fascinated me, but I think it was the New Year’s Eve Twilight Zone marathons that really kicked me into gear. When I was little, I would watch those episodes one after another, full of radical ideas that left me with strange and unsettling questions. I think people put their ideological guards down when they encounter sci-fi and fantasy. It is a great way of presenting hypothetical ideas that can get people re-thinking their own opinions about life without ever feeling as though you’ve attacked their pre-existing notions (after all, you were just telling an impossible story). I’ve written some contemporary/realistic fiction, but sci-fi and fantasy are where my heart is at. People talk about literary fiction illuminating life and commercial fiction giving us an escape from life, but I think sci-fi/fantasy stories can accomplish both very naturally.
What were your favorite parts of this book to write or imagine?
I had so much fun with the mermaid scene, and I guess it shows because readers often tell me the mermaids are their favorite, too! The scene where they visit the redskin village was also extremely and enjoyably cathartic for me. I played Cowboys and Indians all the time as a kid. I wanted to be an Indian when I grew up. Instead, I grew up and learned a lot of the disquieting and unsettling realities of Native American life and history. Writing J.M. Barrie’s redskins from the perspective of a twenty-first century teenager coming into racial awareness helped me resolve a lot of the conflict that existed between my wonderful memories playing Cowboys and Indians and the reality of race relations in this world.
If you could live in Neverland, is there a particular type of creature you would want to be?
I would absolutely want to live in Neverland! If I did, I would be a fairy. J.M. Barrie had this beautiful description of the impish little creatures: “Fairies have to be one thing or the other, because being so small they unfortunately have room for one feeling only at a time. They are, however, allowed to change, only it must be a complete change.” I’d like to say I’d be an adventurous little lost boy or an elegant mermaid, but I get teased by my friends for being a fairy already as it is. I’m known for being an emotional roller-coaster, full of energy and (mostly) joy… it’s wonderful!
What can we expect from the second book?
A lot more reality. The second book follows Gwen and her espionage, trying to track down the Pied Piper, who is hiding somewhere in the real world. I’m really happy because we get to see more of Jay, and we also have Gwen in a place where she’s more competent and experienced than Peter (even if he won’t admit it.) This book pulls on even more fairytales than the first, so people who are familiar with some of those really old, wonderful stories from Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm are going to have a lot buried treasure waiting for them in the characters. Everyone is disguised and hiding from the war on magic though, so I’ve yet to see any single reader recognize all of characters in this story.
A sneak peak of The Piper’s Price:
Peter is plotting his retaliation against the latest bombing. Neverland needs an army, and Peter Pan is certain children will join him once they know what is at stake. The lost boys and girls are planning an invasion in suburbia to recruit, but in order to deliver their message, they will need the help of an old and dangerous associate—the infamous Pied Piper.
Hunting him down will require a spy in in the real world, and Gwen soon finds herself in charge of locating the Piper and cutting an uncertain deal with him. She isn’t sure if Peter trusts her that much, or if he’s just trying to keep her away from him in Neverland. Are they friends, or just allies? But Peter might not even matter now that she’s nearly home and meeting with Jay again.
The Piper isn’t the only one hiding from the adults’ war on magic though, and when Gwen goes back to reality, she’ll have to confront one of Peter’s oldest friends – and one of his earliest enemies.