After my last post about YA characters and their ability to be related to, I did a lot of thinking about Gwen, as I went back through my work and edited yesterday. As I try to cut the unnecessary and expand on the drama/tension within the first few chapters of the book, I find myself often staring at passages feeling conflicted and awful about having to cut. I poured a lot of effort into character and situational development in the early chapters, too much in fact. As I go through, it can be hard to know which details are key and which are just bogging the reader down.
The Neverland Wars is a modern-day continuation of the Peter Pan story, and it was a delightful challenge to take Barrie’s story and envision it as a young adult novel…in some ways, I feel like that’s the most radical thing I could do to the story, is make it about people who are, in fact, growing up. I enjoyed the challenge of twisting it this way, while still trying to preserve the themes of the original story through a protagonist who felt a more nuanced version of the confliction Wendy Darling originally faced.
Gwendolyn Hoffman is sixteen-years-old and a junior at Polk High School. She’s joining the speech and debate team, and in a senior math class with her best friend and gossipy counterpart, Claire. She has a massive crush on the charcoal-drawing, football-playing, gamer-geek, jack-of-all-trades senior, Jay, and spends a lot of time worrying about who he’s going to ask to homecoming. In a lot of ways, her teenage years have enforced a normalcy on her that any high school girl would recognize, and maybe even relate to. Adolescence is a double-edged sword, however, and Gwen hates the idea that it’s hurling her towards adulthood. She still feels like she has infinitely more in common with her eight-year-old sister, Rosemary than her home-making mother or the financial adviser that is her father. While she struggles to stay afloat academically and socially at school, Gwen comes home to room full of stuffed animals and favorite children’s books. She still gets to tell her little sister stories and make up games with her, and that whimsy is keeping her acutely aware of how much more fun childhood is than anything that comes after it. Of course, that conclusion puts her at risk of being recruited by the logic of one very whimsical, very magical young boy who shows up at the Hoffman sisters’ windows one night.