Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

May 13, 2014 4 stars, Book Review, Young Adult 25 ★★★★

Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. SheinmelSecond Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux on May 13, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward his nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she's falling hard for Pete. A radical reinvention of J. M. Barrie's classic tale, Second Star is an irresistible summer romance about two young men who have yet to grow up—and the troubled beauty trapped between them.


Second Star was a unique and imaginative contemporary retelling of Peter Pan told from the perspective of Wendy Darling. She has just graduated high school and her twin brothers John and Michael have been missing, presumed dead from a surfing accident six months ago.

California dreaming
As the story takes place on the California coast and not too far from where I live, I really felt drawn to this story even though I don’t normally read contemporary books. Am I a surf girl, beach bunny? Oh heck no! – far from it. It’s just that reading this reminded me of summer trips during my teens as well as early twenties spent with friends in rented beach-houses on cliff-sides overlooking the water. Those hot summers always felt like stolen time and never did last long enough. With those times in mind Second Star felt exactly like those whirlwind romance filled summers as a teen, liking the bad boy I shouldn’t have. I related to Wendy, myself having been one of those straight A students that always did the right thing, but when I had a mind to do what I wanted, to hell with anyone if they were going to stop me!

Wendy takes off after graduation determined to search for her brothers now that no one else will. As all the twins ever cared about was surfing she heads straight to the beaches and there finds a group of runaway teens she instantly falls in with. Indeed she packs her bag and spends the rest of the summer with them. These are an intense bunch of kids and no strangers to trouble. Who does any young girl end up falling for when she shouldn’t? That’s right the boy that exudes trouble. There just so happens to be two of them this time. For me this was real, intense, heartbreaking and nostalgic. I never did learn to surf but now that I’m all grown up I regret not taking the chance.

The maybe not so shiny
If you’ve read a lot of young adult books you’ll notice that Second Star does have some of the commonly used tropes and foibles many of them seem to suffer these days. Let me just tick a few of these off like so:
– lack of adult presence or adults doing or allowing things that I have to suspend my disbelief over: Would parents really let their daughter run off for the summer with little to no contact from her especially considering they’d just lost two of their children not less than a year ago? I highly doubt that. BUT even saying this – this girl is 18 so she can do whatever the heck she gosh darn pleases in my mind. Goodness knows I did. So for that reason I can still see this happening because I for one did whatever the heck I pleased as a teen and I did have one of those parents that didn’t say squat about it. Why? Because I was the good girl with the flawless grades, and I can only assume my Dad must have thought why attempt to fix what ain’t broken. Did I disappear for days at a time…yeah *shame-faced* I really did. Haha. My point – Essentially this will either work for the reader or it won’t.
– the love triangle: oh zowwy do we have it in the extreme here – but to the book’s credit, it does let you know right up front in the marketing materials that this is going to be a love triangle. So if you don’t like that sort of thing, or aren’t ok with rolling with it right up front then don’t pick it up because the love triangle is a main plot device here.
– the falling for the bad boy: ok, ok – alright I can’t say this trope is always bad because I do like my bad boys and honestly in my youth did fall for plenty of them – but it most definitely is one of the most common elements.

And all the wishing in the world
No matter the things we hope for in life, we definitely don’t always get what we want. Second Star definitely delivers that message in a sad and poignant way with Wendy’s story while still managing to capture some of the adventurous times of our youth. For me it was especially nostalgic and I know that’s the reason I enjoyed it as much as I did. When we do the things we know we shouldn’t because sometimes, just sometimes you really need to. While we might not always get what we want, often enough we learn the things we need. This was a fabulously done re-imaginging of Peter Pan and one that I will definitely keep on my shelf. Heck, if I ever had a rebellious teenage daughter one day I’d even pass it on to her.

*gasp* This book was provided by the publisher! No worries though it’s an honest review and all opinions expressed are my own. Cover art displayed courtesy of the publisher. This post might also contain affiliate links. To view my full Blog Policy, click here.

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Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
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25 Responses to “Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel”

  1. Mogsy

    Yay, you liked this too! Frankly I was surprised by a lot of the negative reviews, but I gather some people wanted a closer retelling, or were upset over the ending. To the first one, HELLO it’s about surfers! I don’t think you can really expect a loyal retelling. To the second, I actually liked the ending we had. It’s a bit paradoxical, but in not getting what we want, it made it more satisfying for me.

    • Tabitha (Not Yet Read)

      I completely agree with you. I didn’t understand the strong critical reviews, I did understand some of the points were made by a few of the reviews I wrote but to me I really enjoyed the overall reading experience and I thought it was very well done. But then maybe I am biased because I had a few odd personal feelings towards the book. I know I liked it more because of that and also for the nice little snippets of retelling that we did get. I preferred that it wasn’t a closer retelling. Why tell the same story ever again any way?

      And heck yes, I think it ended perfectly! Real life doesn’t have picture perfect happy endings. All things considered this one still had a pretty cool one.
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  2. Melliane

    Oh a peter pan retelling? I love that! I haven’t read any for this story and I’m curious. Mainly if it’s from Wendy. I confess that a love triangle doesn’t really bother me if it’s well done but you’re right even if she is 18, she strange that the parents let her go like that. Thanks for the review!

  3. Cait @ Notebook Sisters

    I WANT TO READ THIS SO BAD. Peter Pan has always been my secret (? haa not anymore) crush and I need need need all the retellings I can. I loved Tiger Lily, and that was pretty close to the original. I love the surfer mix into this. :)) Beaches rock. I’ve always grown up near a beach, though not much bad surfer boys around. 😉 LOVE this review.
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    • Tabitha (Pabkins)

      Oo I didn’t read Tiger Lily – I will have to pick that one up. Glad you liked the review. I guess the beach has never been too far away from me since I live in California but I don’t live in a seaside town but they are always fun to visit during the summer.

      I hope you enjoy it…I see it getting very mixed reviews.
      Tabitha (Pabkins) recently posted…Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. SheinmelMy Profile

    • Tabitha (Pabkins)

      I love the fall and winter – I detest the spring and don’t love the summer. Oddly enough when you’re oceanside it isn’t as hot because of the breeze that is always rolling in.

      Still a nice short summer read – not as happy as some would want and definitely full of more angst then I usually prefer. I’ve seen very mixed reviews on it. Thankful that it worked for me.
      Tabitha (Pabkins) recently posted…Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. SheinmelMy Profile

      • Livia @ Butterfly-o-Meter Books

        That’s cool, I like not-too-happy and I definitely like me some angsty too 😀
        Always a good thing when a read works out for you, regardless of anyone else’s reviews on it, I so agree. What matters in the end is how it works out for each reader, right? 🙂

  4. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    I’ve wanted to read this book for some time now because it’s a Peter Pan retelling but I put it off because of the love triangle. I hate love triangles with a passion these days. I like bad boys too, but this trend with the girl always falling for bad boys is quite frustrating.
    It’s nice that the book made you feel nostalgic though. I love these kinds of books that remind you of something special in your life.
    Lovely review, Tabitha.
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  5. Kirsty-Marie

    Ahh, I don’t know whether to read it or not now, I’ve read quite a lot of reviews which have been pretty less than stellar, so it’s nice to actually read a positive review. I’d probably have a few issues, the same a lot of people have had with the love triangle and Jas. But I mean, you don’t know if you’re going to like it or not unless you read it right? So I’ll have to at some point, just to see. I mean, it does sound, not fun, but you know, I always like road-trip/adventure types. So we’ll see. Also, books are fun when they make you nostalgic. 🙂
    Kirsty-Marie recently posted…Review: Life By CommitteeMy Profile

    • Tabitha (Pabkins)

      Yeah it was nostalgic for me because I had a few beach side summers growing up and some bad boys LOL. But I do see all the reasons that people complained and didn’t like the book. For me though I really enjoyed it and honestly I don’t read hardly any contemporary at all so this was a short refreshing read for me. Also I hear a lot of people didn’t like the ending and I did like the ending so I’m an oddball out I guess.
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  6. Heidi

    I really liked this book up until a point and then it unraveled. I so agree with the well worn tropes, I didn’t mind the missing parents so much because at least the author attempted to explain that they were in the surge of grief. The writing was gorgeous the retelling creative, but the end was a big disappointment.
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    • Tabitha (Pabkins)

      You didn’t like the end! Ok so I soo need to know how you would have preferred it to end. I really liked the way that it ended. I thought it was realistic and for a while there I was like huh, so they are just going to write all this off and then pow more at the end and I liked that. I must know you must tell me what you wanted instead. =)
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  7. Kayla @ The Thousand Lives

    Maybe THAT’S the reason I couldn’t connect to this book at all – I’ve never done anything remotely rebellious in my life! Unless you count staying up past my bedtime to read… but that’s about it. But I completely agree about the parents being so uninvolved; I just couldn’t believe it after they had JUST lost two kids. I’m glad you enjoyed it though!
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  8. starryeyedjen

    I’ll be honest, I mostly requested this because of the gorgeous cover and the fact that it was a Peter Pan retelling. I paid attention to little else until I got to reading it. Honestly, this is probably the most positive review I’ve seen for the book, including my own, but I thought it would be the opposite. I liked it, but I had my own issues with it, YA tropes notwithstanding. I was okay with the loose retelling, the open ending, the love triangle…all of that. I probably would have been okay with the story overall had I had some inkling that I was dealing with an unreliable narrator. I guess I mostly felt cheated and that led to my reader dissatisfaction, but it’s still a good story. Just not quite what I was expecting. Great review!
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  9. Wendy Darling

    I actually liked this, too! It was a little on the unsubstantial/vague side for me, so I ended up liking and not quite loving (3 stars, I think), but I’m glad to see you enjoyed it as well. I totally agree with both your positive and your negative points for this. I’m curious what the reactions will be as a whole, so far I think they’re fairly mixed.
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    • Tabitha (Pabkins)

      I agree – I think they are mixed as well. There were just so many things here that I could relate to from my teen years. Hell I even fell asleep once making out with a boy after a long day in the California sun! Oh and someone said “making out with a stranger?” – yeah did that when I was a teen too *muuuwhahahah*

      anways I know a lot of people wanted this to be more of a retelling but I liked it just the way it was with just a dash of that feeling and I for one liked the ending too which I think many had issue with. Glad that you still enjoyed it!!
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  10. Sarah

    I hadn’t seen many great reviews on this one, but I like what you’ve said. I was looking at it today, I may pick it up. I love retellings, even if they aren’t super close, I enjoy feeling the story within it.
    The rebellious teen angle draws me in too, I think we all went through those periods (yikes!).
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    • Tabitha (Pabkins)

      I think this one caught a lot of flack because of the triangle, the drugs and the ending. But that’s just my personal opinion. I thought it was a great read but then I felt nostalgic about it and I think a person’s teen life might really come into play as to what they feel about this one…perhaps but eh who knows. I’m just glad I enjoyed it especially considering I don’t really read contemporary.
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