Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel


Title: Second Star
Series: Standalone
By: Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Author Info: Website | Twitter | Goodreads
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre Type: Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: May 13, 2014
Pages: Hardback, 256 pages
Publisher: Farra, Straus, and Giroux


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 Pete's 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 a classic, 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 breaks out of the traditional retellings of Peter Pan with a dark, new contemporary romance. Set along the rugged California coastline, this story combines the beach and surf atmosphere with mystery and romance.

Wendy Darling has just graduated from high school. It should be a time of celebration, but all she can think about are her twin 16-year-old brothers, John and Michael, who disappeared nine months ago. Nothing of them remains except their damaged surfboards. When the police and her parents give up hope and believe them to be dead, Wendy decides to search for her missing brothers on her own. Determined to find them, she begins her search along the beautiful and rugged coastline that her brothers surfed, searching and asking question among the surfing community. Inadvertently Wendy stumbles upon a mysterious, hidden beach that seems almost magical. Here, Wendy meets the charismatic Pete, Belle and their group of rebel surfers.

The sun is reflected on the cliffs in a rainbow of colors, like someone painted them there. The light is dancing like fireflies on the water, which is surprisingly warm, like a current of warm water flows right into this cove, just for them. The water is even clearer her that it is down the coast. My brother would have called these waves glassy and hollow, perfect for a ride.
     And then I look at Pete, his face lit up by the setting sun. He looks perfectly at ease, like he was made for this very spot,
     "Where are we?" I breath softly.
     "What?" Pete mummers.
     "Doesn't this place have a name?"
     He smiles. "Kensington," he says, and he make the word sound like music.

They are orphans, runaways who have banded together and live among the abandon houses perched on the decaying cliffs. Wendy is drawn to Pete and finds herself spending more and more time with his rag-tag group. Pete introduces Wendy to surfing, something she never had the chance to do with her brothers, and soon she is forgetting about her fears as the waves enchanting song calls out to her "to Fly." But things become complicated and strange when Belle becomes increasingly jealous of Wendy, and Pete's nemesis Jas shows up and begins to show his own attraction to Wendy. When Wendy discovers evidence that linked both Pete and Jas to her missing brothers, she must decide who to trust. The warm and charismatic Pete or the enigmatic, yet dangerous Jas.

Second Star is a completely reinvented, modern version of Peter Pan. You will feel the pull of the ocean and smell of the salt water as Wendy descends into this mysterious surfing community as well as being held captivated by both rebels Pete and Jas. Although this takes place off the California coastline, Alyssa B. Sheinmel creates a magical, hidden realm that seems separated from everything else. She brings to life the enchantment and joy of surfing, and a dark, hidden underside. Namely the addicting "fairy dust" that holds sway over many of the surfer kids. I'm glad the drug element called "fairy dust" was written as a cautionary tale by the author .

Wendy. I admired her tenacity trying to find her brother, and loved how she was brave and learned to surf, despite her fears of it. I did feel like she was sometimes mean and rude in the beginning of the story to her best friend and family. Nobody seemed to "get" her or share her pain. Not even her parents. Sometimes her determination would lead her into doing something dangerous, which was frustrating. I ended up liking her in spite of a few bad choices and love her chemistry between Pete and Jas.

Pete is a bit of a mystery just like Jas. He is sweet and charming, and likes to take care of the other orphans/rebel surfers. I couldn't help, but like him as he became fast friends with Wendy. Teaching her how to surf and including her in his close knit group. He has a warm, sunny personality that I really liked. I thought he was perfect for Wendy. Until Jas shook things up.

Jas (Hook) is one of the rebel surfers and orphan who lives on Kensington Beach, and a dealer of the "fairy dust."  I thought I would not, in anyway, shape, or form like him. No way. But I have to admit, through the author's writing, I felt strangely compelled by this anti-hero. You get the feeling he hates this part of himself.  Not to be forgiven for his actions, but somehow everything else about him seemed to be what you'd expect from a hero/ romantic interest. Except that one big no-no. As his story unfolds you realize that there's been a lifelong (it feels almost magical) rivalry between Pete and Jas. A strong friendship that turns bitter. And now Wendy has arrived and Jas finds himself fascinated by her.

The ending and mystery behind Wendy's missing brothers at times seemed surreal. Like a vague dream, I didn't really know until the end what was real or possibly real.I never really knew what to expect. Even the book's closure still left things a bit ambiguous and I felt it was somewhat anticlimactic. The first half or more kept me turning the pages, but the last part left me somewhat confused. An open ending that I didn't care as much for. Despite the vagueness and anticlimactic ending, I did enjoy the story and its unique, somewhat dark reimaging of Peter Pan.

My Rating: 3 Stars. I liked it.

PLEASE NOTE: A courtesy review copy of this book was provided by Farra, Straus, and Giroux in exchange for my fair review. Thank you Farra, Straus, and Giroux for the review opportunity!