“Neverland” by Douglas Clegg (Vanguard Press, 2010)

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The term “neverland” usually brings up images of a happy, fun place, whether it is the fantasy world of Peter Pan or the late Michael Jackson’s amusement ranch, or perhaps something different; but it’s usually somewhere you’d like to be.  Douglas Clegg is looking to change that in his novel Neverland; after reading it, you’ll cringe whenever you hear the word.

Each year for summer vacation the Jackson family visit the unique Victorian home of Rowena Wandigaux Lee, located off the coast of Georgia on Gull Island; this year it’s going to be different.  Beau Jackson is hoping for something different this time, and he certainly finds it.  His really weird cousin, Sumter Munroe, is inviting him into the very secret club; Sumter is the only other member.  The clubhouse is the old shack on the beach; he calls it Neverland.  It’s an abandoned old room with some left over antiques that Beau’s grandmother, Rowena, doesn’t even remember.  Inside is also a box with a creature inside; Sumter says it’s a god he calls Lucy that he prays to . . . and sacrifices too.  Now he wants Beau to do the same thing and worship this god of Gull Island.

This is just part of the story.  Then there’s the Jackson family, which give a whole new meaning to the term dysfunctional.  There’s the matriarch of the house who is a very religious lady and does her best to guilt trip everyone into doing what she wants, and behaving how she wants.  Then there’s Beau’s parents who are heavy drinkers and spend most of the vacation arguing with each other; a divorce seems inevitable.  Beau also has two sisters who aren’t even teenagers and yet think and act a lot older.

Douglas Clegg has created a horror story that fulfills all the expectations of the genre, but at the same time he has some very special characters, in the style of John Irving, that could live and exist on their own without an incredible story to tell.  The result is Neverland, a book you won’t soon forget, both for its terrifying story and its memorable cast.

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Originally written on June 28 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.