Source: Hardcover via Disney-Hyperion
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars :star :star :star :star 1/2
Twelve-year-old Jocelyn dreams of becoming every bit as daring as her infamous father, Captain James Hook. Her grandfather, on the other hand, intends to see her starched and pressed into a fine society lady. When she's sent to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb's Finishing School for Young Ladies, Jocelyn's hopes of following in her father's fearsome footsteps are lost in a heap of dance lessons, white gloves, and way too much pink. So when Jocelyn receives a letter from her father challenging her to avenge his untimely demise at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile, she doesn't hesitate-here at last is the adventure she has been waiting for. But Jocelyn finds that being a pirate is a bit more difficult than she'd bargained for. As if attempting to defeat the Neverland's most fearsome beast isn't enough to deal with, she's tasked with captaining a crew of woefully untrained pirates, outwitting cannibals wild for English cuisine, and rescuing her best friend from a certain pack of lost children, not to mention that pesky Peter Pan who keeps barging in uninvited. The crocodile's clock is always ticking in Heidi Schulz's debut novel, a story told by an irascible narrator who is both dazzlingly witty and sharp as a sword. Will Jocelyn find the courage to beat the incessant monster before time runs out?
My Review [with GIFs!]
This is the tale of Jocelyn Hook. She's the 13 year old daughter of the infamous Captain Hook, whom she doesn't know. Jocelyn's mother is dead, and her father is obviously busy doing pirate-y plundering and doesn't have any interest in raising a daughter. So that responsibility falls to her grandfather, who is having an incredibly difficult time of it. After many wild encounters and "disgraceful" behaviors, her grandfather finally gives up and sends Jocelyn to Miss Eliza Crumb-Bittlecomb's Finishing School for Young Ladies. Jocelyn has a horrible time at the finishing school. Catty girls who are snobby and completely different than her mar her days. Her only friend is the cook's boy, Roger. He loves adventures and they hole up together reading about pirates and ships and dream about having their very own adventure someday. That comes sooner than they might think, but in an altogether different manner that they imagined.
When things got really bad at the school, Jocelyn received her first letter from her father. Too bad the letter informed her of his death. He died at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile and details her inheritance in the letter: she is to kill the crocodile and avenge her father's death. With that awful news and the promise of adventure, Jocelyn flies to Neverland.
Tinkerbell is Peter Pan's annoying fairy, but we don't see much of her or Pan. We do see the fairy court though, and Jocelyn meets one very special fairy prince who I hope gets to reappear in the sequel. I actually loved that we see more of the secondary characters of Peter Pan. We don't meet Wendy and her brothers, but Wendy is alluded to in hysterical ways. I found Captain Hook's side of things to be more interesting, anyway.
Tiger Lily and her tribe are only one of the many groups of natives that reside in Neverland. Neverland is always changing, and people from all time periods come and go. It's a really cool concept, and I loved the exploration of that. Ever since Captain Hook died, more and more pirates have been migrating into Neverland, and staking claim. Some are trying to find Captain Hook's lost treasure. But Jocelyn Hook didn't see it in the trunk of what her dad left her. That doesn't stop an evil pirate from trying to capture Jocelyn, though.
Oh, and I can't forget the mermaids. Schultz kept them as vain, snobby, and horrible as always. There is one particular scene that I really liked that included the mermaids. I won't give it away, but if you read the book (you do plan on reading the book, right?!) you'll know which one I mean. ;)
I just can't tell you how impressed I was with this story. It's a fantastic debut. I felt like it was authentic with the original story AND the Disney adaptation. I felt like I was getting a new story, and that was important to me.
Jocelyn is a lovable, flawed, non-girly character with a lot of moxy. I really really hope there will be a sequel, and I think there could be with how things ended. I found myself surprised, angry, and I even teared up a teeny bit at the end! This book was just so loveable.
I recommend this book to: lovers of fairy tales, lovers of Neverland, and strong female characters. I think those of you who aren't usually big on middle-grade will enjoy this novel. It definitely is middle-grade, but it's so enjoyable that if you are in the mood for a really good book that happens to be light and adventurous, you won't do wrong by picking this one up. :tup
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.