Angela Jackson is the great-granddaughter of Peter Pan—and she has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her Pan blood does not make her immortal (Peter left Neverland, grew up, had a family, and passed on) but Angela and her mother are unwilling to surrender, so they try one last shot: they send Angela to Neverland, where the cancer will be unable to overcome her and she can spend the rest of her eternal life in the fun of childhood. But while Angela is a fighter, ready to take on a struggling new world and murderous pirates, Angela realizes that not even Neverland can hide her from her wounds—and she is done running from them.
Allison Spooner deftly addresses a middle-grade audience (or any audience young at heart!) while tackling heavy and meaningful topics. Angela is incredibly relatable, believable for her age and situation, healthily vulnerable, yet deep, strong, and powerful. Her relationships are heartfelt and touching, the peak of the story, and the whimsy of Neverland complement this original twist on the classic tale. The finale is exhilarating, with a viciously beautiful, fiercely moving conclusion.
Several moments are especially ripe with emotional potential, but unfortunately, they are relayed in backstory and/or summary. This summarizing style, while not constant, appears frequently throughout the novel, and places some distance between the reader and the story, whereas a more immersive style (even added scenes) would fully realize well-deserved impact. This also applies to similar lines that stated an emotion, realization, etc., rather than showing the readers.
The story is impressively and satisfyingly succinct, but in its brevity, the pacing would have benefitted from honing on the previously mentioned scenes, and clipping or combining plainer scenes. Those same scenes would also have been improved by a reconciling of confrontation levels—at moments the conflicts are pleasant and playful to the point of being child-like (understandable, considering the audience), but at other times, the stakes and loss are shockingly harsh and raw. More consistency would offer greater story coherence and impact.
As an additional note, the book contains a small handful of typos.
Overall, The Lost Girl by Allison Spooner is a moving, imaginative, and endearing book that balanced the joy of a childhood story with the weight of growing up, and leaves a mark on the reader: a recommended read for anyone needing a good fairytale and a heartwarming cry.