Remember those long hot summers that never seemed to end? Remember the people your parents said you had to like - even though they quite clearly did not - because they were your relatives? In Neverland, Douglas Clegg has captured these feelings and added a gruesomely scary twist that keeps you turning the pages.
The story starts off as it means to go on, focussing on the main character, Beauregard Monroe. He's 10, and about to embark on his family's annual vacation at his grandmother's house on a swampy island in the Deep South that even the locals leave for the summer. The heat, the humidity, and the mosquitoes, make themselves felt even in a chilly English spring (where I'm reading), as I turn the pages the sultry, sleepy heat flows forth. Clegg must have an excellent recall of his own childhood - Beau comments that he prefers to read old favourites (his are the Martian Chronicles and My Side of the Mountain... both of which I read at his age!) rather than try a new book over the trip.
Throughout the work, this sense of the difference between children and adults is maintained, a 'them' and 'us' that turns tragic as the adults will never quite understand what the children have got themselves into, let alone why. The grandmother (Grammy Weenie) writes in her journal "...one can never be sure if one is seeing things as an adult sees them or as they were seen as a child." For she too has been touched by what lives, infests, Neverland and perhaps sees more than many the dangers that the youngsters have been exposed to; although she pushes such thoughts away until it's almost too late...
Harmless fun, surely, that children will make a clubhouse out of an old shack during their summer vacation. We all did. Fortunately, most of us didn't find anything quite as unpleasant, an evil power cracking through the veils of reality to suck us in... yet reading this, you begin to wonder if it is only good fortune rather than impossibility that spared you from such a fate.
Such is the detail, the reality of family and juvenile dynamics, that you feel that this might well have actually happened... it's a cracking good read, but not perhaps if you have to go on vacation with your extended family this summer.
Role-playing Inspirations: If you run horror games you may find the backstory of interest, perhaps as a tragedy which your characters can investigate, but whatever your preferred gaming style, you can learn a lot about using description to create the right atmosphere.
Return to Neverland page.
Reviewed: 18 April 2010