Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson – The Bridge to Never Land
Read By: MacLeod Andrews
Length: 10h 55m (448 pages)
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Started: 09 February 2014
Finished: 22 February 2014
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I thought it was time for some more Peter Pan in my life.
If Peter Pan turns
out to be real, that means his
enemies are too.
Summary: When messing around with their father’s antique desk, fifteen-year-old Aiden and seventeen-year-old Sarah Cooper find a piece of paper with strange and cryptic instructions. On their family vacation to London, they figure out that the paper is related to the Peter and the Starcatchers books, but that the books are not fiction, but a historical record of the real Starcatchers, and that Starstuff itself is very real. Now they’ve got their hands on what is probably the last Starstuff remaining on Earth, but they’ve also awakened the Starcatchers’ ancient enemy, Lord Ombra, who is pursuing them. In order to keep themselves and their family safe, they must find a way to dispose of the Starstuff, a quest which will take them from England, to Princeton University, and eventually all the way to Disney World… and possibly even further.
Review: I tried to be my normal level of “no spoilers past the first third of the book” cagey in my summary, but honestly: it’s kind of pointless in this case. For one thing, the title is The Bridge to Never Land, so you know that they are eventually going to find, y’know, a bridge to Never Land. For another thing, though, this book is so formulaic that the concept of spoilers doesn’t even really apply. Right off the bat, it’s pretty obvious how things are going to shake out, at least in general terms. But for the truly spoiler-phobic, you may want to skip the rest of my review, because one of my biggest problems with this book were the plot holes, and I’m going to talk about them in some specifics.
Okay, so, before I get into the plot holes, I do want to say that this book had interesting potential, and some of the ideas it contained were really great. I like the idea of tying advanced physics into a children’s book; instead of having everything be due to magic, in this case, the problem was solved by science (that used the magic as a power source, because: of course). But the thing I loved most about this book was the idea of having Peter Pan, the actual Peter Pan, who hasn’t been to our world since Victorian London, show up in Disney World and be confronted with the Disney-ified version of himself and his story. Peter Pan is one of my favorite characters, and has been since I was three, and I am just tickled with the idea of the actual Peter Pan looking at the cartoon, or the snow globes and toys and glow-in-the-dark Tinkerbell wands, or the Disney cast member dressed up like him in the parade, and being like “…the hell?!?” Barry and Pearson don’t run with this as much as I think they could have, but they at least plant the idea, which I loved.
But, unfortunately, Peter doesn’t show up until relatively late in the book; most of it is taken up by Aiden and Sarah (and the physicist and Starcatcher-descendent J.D. Astor), and they’re not so awesome. I’m not a fan of the decision to make the protagonists in their late teens; it maybe makes their exploits a little more believable than had they been doing all this as eleven-year-olds, but neither Aiden nor Sarah really acted their age, and I didn’t find either of them particularly interesting or well-rounded characters. This probably wasn’t helped by the audiobook production – I can’t tell if the characters read as really young, or if MacLeod Andrews read them as really young, if that makes sense, but they came off as juvenile and annoying a lot of the time.
They were also irritatingly dense a whole lot of the time. (What fifteen-year-old with a smart phone doesn’t understand the basic concept of GPS?) But it was particularly annoying when it came to their constant denials that ____ was real. So, you followed clues in a fiction book and it lead you to a real place with a pathway marked as stars. But then the stuff you find by following that pathway can’t possibly be Starstuff, because Starstuff is fiction. Well, okay, maybe it is Starstuff, but surely the OTHER fictional stuff from the book can’t be real, because it’s fiction. Over and over again. Also, there is an awful lot of time spent once they get to Disney World timing the Peter Pan’s Flight ride so that they can get to the right part to open the bridge at exactly the right time, but oh no, they can’t reach from the car of the ride, etc… and the whole time they seem to forget that they have a magic box full of stuff that can make them fly. A lot of the story feels just like that: manufactured problems created by the author not because they fit the story, but just for added drama.
There’s also, as you may have been able to tell, some manufactured advertising for Disney that permeates most of this book. The meta-ness of the characters having read the previous Starcatchers books (and they were Sarah’s favorites, of course), yeah, okay, I’ll let that slide. And I realize that Disney owns Hyperion, and Pearson at least writes a bunch of Disney-themed stuff, so I shouldn’t be so surprised, and it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. But it still felt like a not particularly subtle ad for visiting the park, which was kind of gross. It was also part of the forced modernity of this book that made it so much less charming than its predecessors. Actually, “forced” is a good word all around. The action moved quickly, which kept me involved in the story, but a lot of aspects of it just felt off. 3 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: I’d skip it, honestly. It’s tolerably entertaining, but it’s not nearly up to the standard set by the earlier Starcatchers books.
First Line: The woman made her way carefully along the icy sidewalk, pulling her long wool coat tight against the harsh winter wind and swirling snowflakes.
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