Review Blog

Dec 10 2018

Neverland by Margot McGovern

cover image

Penguin Random House Australia, 2018. ISBN 9780143787846
(Age: Young Adult 15+) Recommended. Kit Learmonth arrives at The Residence, a boarding school for damaged teens. She is too sick for regular school but not sick enough to be institutionalised. Her psychiatrist uncle Doc and Dr Ward care for her and the other students living there. The Residence is Kit's former home. A grand home on an island with a lighthouse, caves, cliffs and swimming beaches. Kit grew up on the island with her esteemed writer father and her mother. Her childhood memories are vivid and fanciful. She and her father lived in an imaginary world of pirates, mermaids, monsters, treasures and seafaring voyages of Odysseus. She lived in a make believe world straight from the pages of her father's bestselling book Kingdom by the Sea, her favourite book.
Returning to The Residence is difficult for Kit; she hardly recognises the place and has to deal with her past memories and her parents' tragic death. She self-harms and looks for ways to comfort herself with drugs and alcohol, all banned from The Residence yet smuggled in. Kit has some close friends and together they have a goal to win the School's Cup, the annual sailing race. With Alastair, Rohan and Gypsy by her side, she manages group therapy, studies, training for sailing and gets up to mischief on night time adventures. They nickname The Residence 'Neverland' and play out imaginary and fantastical scenarios as a way to escape real life. At times, their friendships are strained and difficult, as all struggle with their own demons.
The title of the novel makes me think of Peter Pan's Neverland. Kit Learmonth is like Peter Pan, stuck on an island and does not grow up. Kit lives her life stuck in her idealised past blocking out the truth and trauma of the day her parents died.
Neverland is an engaging and emotional read. McGovern deals with the challenges of adolescent mental health issues in a very sensitive and refreshing way. She deals with issues of depression, eating disorders, and self-harm without romanticising them. The character development is sincere and balanced enabling the reader to experience real empathy and compassion for each. McGovern has been successful in writing a novel that is a more positive representation of the issues that face young adults today.
Sandra Ciccarello

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