STARRED REVIEW
May 18, 2021

Sisters of the Neversea

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Everyone knows the story of Peter Pan, right? Adventurous lost boys, mischievous fairies, murderous pirates and a bloodthirsty crocodile—but how did all these iconic characters come to Neverland in the first place? To answer this question, Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Sisters of the Neversea explores the island of Neverland and looks closely at the events that shaped Peter Pan himself.

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Everyone knows the story of Peter Pan, right? Adventurous lost boys, mischievous fairies, murderous pirates and a bloodthirsty crocodile—but how did all these iconic characters come to Neverland in the first place? To answer this question, Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Sisters of the Neversea explores the island of Neverland and looks closely at the events that shaped Peter Pan himself.

Lily and Wendy have no idea that someone is watching them argue during what might be their last night as stepsisters. With Wendy and her dad moving to New York for the summer and Lily and her mom staying behind in Oklahoma, this might really be the end of their family. But everything changes in an instant when a mysterious boy named Peter, a wayward shadow and a persnickety fairy named Belle come in through their bedroom window.

After being whisked away to Neverland, Wendy and her little brother, Michael, find themselves among the Lost, a group of young boys who seem to be rapidly forgetting who they are and where they came from. Summoning all her bravery, Lily follows in pursuit, planning to rescue Wendy and Michael and somehow return home. Once Lily arrives in Neverland, she joins with a group of Native American kids whom Peter has taken from tribes across America, including Leech Lake Ojibwe, Black Seneca, Cherokee Nation and Navajo.

Leitich Smith, who, like Lily, is Muscogee Creek, fills Sisters of the Neversea with many of the hallmarks that readers expect from a Peter Pan story, including pirates, fairies, crocodiles and merfolk. But she also confronts and rectifies many of the harmful tropes and stereotypes of J.M. Barrie’s original story as well as those perpetuated by Disney’s animated film. Both Belle and Wendy admonish Peter when he uses an offensive word to refer to Native people, and they challenge his demeaning behavior toward girls, women and Native Americans.

Ultimately, the novel offers redemption not just for Peter but for many of Neverland’s other characters as well. With expertly shifting perspectives, an oft-broken fourth wall and subtle but firm remedies to elements of the story best left in the past, Sisters of the Neversea is a welcome new addition to the legend of Peter Pan.

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