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BOOK REVIEW: Darling Girl by Liz Michalski

“To the Darling women. The stars are not only above us, they are in us. May we shine brightly, dream deeply, and fly high all on our own.”

So I found out about Once Upon a Book Blub Box last year when I was trying to think of ideas for my mom's Christmas present. I found it on #bookstagram and thought it was such a cute idea. When their Black Friday sale came around, I snatched up so many - including Darling Girl by Liz Michalski!

Darling Girl is a retelling of Peter Pan. Now, I wasn't a huge fan of Peter Pan, but knowing this was a dark retelling with Peter Pan set as the villain really interested me. Plus, I'm loving getting to open little gifts as I read books, which is the whole premise of the Once Upon a Book Club book boxes. Now, I will be sharing the surprises I got at the end of this review, so just cover your eyes for the final picture!

So while this is a Peter Pan retelling, this story isn't told with Wendy and her brothers as the main characters. Instead, we're a couple generations removed from Wendy's adventure and are introduced to her granddaughter, Holly Darling. Holly is a scientist who now co-owns a skincare brand. One of their newest adventures is diving into the makeup market. Throughout this book, her company is working on launching Pixie Dust, which was when I was prompted to open my first gift! I like to guess what the surprises are going to be and it as actually something different than what I was guessing!

Now, part of this whole story is that Holly has a son, Jack, who has to have injections to keep his health up. Holly is secretive about what these injections actually are, but we also learn that she has a daughter who has been comatose for the last ten years. We get the vibe that there is some kind of link between Eden, her daughter, and the injections, but we don't find out exactly what that link is right away. Then suddenly, her daughter goes missing despite her comatose state. Holly rushes to London, where her daughter is cared for, and brings along Jack. Problem is, Jack doesn't know he has a sister.

There are a lot of secrets in Darling Girl and while some can be rationalized away, there are many that just cannot be. I can't go into many more of the secrets because they are revealed throughout the book. But goodness, some of them do need trigger warnings. Throughout the book there are mentions of rape, drug use, and even child neglect. So if any of them are triggering, it may be best to pass on this book.

Now, one of the cool things I found about this retelling is that 1) this really happened in the modern day and 2) we find discrepancies between the original story (which is an actual book within Darling Girl) and what actually happened. Plus reference to a first edition copy of Peter Pan is when I was told to open my second gift! It was also interesting to me that Wendy doesn't share much of her story with her daughter, Jane, who is so enthralled with the story of Peter Pan that she is the quintessential fangirl throughout the book.

One character I found interesting in this book is Tinker Bell. While she doesn't become a full fledged character until much later in the book, we do get glimpses of her and it makes you wonder about the stories you've been told about Tinker Bell. The description of Tinker Bell is a bit disturbing though. Not at all like what I expected. She is probably my favorite character by the end of the book. It's during a scene with Tinker Bell that I was prompted to open the third gift. This is probably the main gift I'm not sure what I'm going to do with.

The main aspect of the book I enjoyed was the suspense. We get suspense wondering what the hell Holly is up to, where Eden is, and who will find Eden first. And of course we have our own version of Captain Hook in this retelling. The question is though, is he a good guy or a bad guy? I wasn't even sure until the end. Especially since he's described in such a divisive way. Now the last gift I opened is prompted literally on the last page of the book, so I'm not sharing it so you can't sneak a peek at the ending!

There were a couple things I didn't love about the book. Mainly, the middle of the book seemed to drag a bit. I felt like the build up went on just a little too long. There are also a couple instances of forgiveness that seemed to come too easily. Now would I have liked the book as much if I didn't have the little gifts to open along with it? I'm not sure. But overall, I rated Darling Girl 3.75 stars (rounded up to 4 on Goodreads).

Liked the idea of opening gifts while reading? Check out Once Upon a Book Club. They have middle grade, young adult, and adult subscriptions, special edition boxes, and one time purchase boxes. If you decide you want to try a box out, use my code TWOGIRLSBOOKINIT-CHELSEA for 10% off!

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