Margot McGovern’s Neverland is a complex look into mental health through the lens of a mythical world that most people will be familiar with. Kit, who has repressed memories from traumatic events in her past, finds herself on the island that was her childhood home, now a facility for mentally ill teenagers. As she struggles to accept the changes to the island and the truth about her life that are rising to the surface, the lines between reality and Kit’s make-believe world of Neverland blur.
Using motifs from mythology and classic literature, McGovern explores Kit’s trauma by crafting her own mythology that she returns to whenever she feels that she isn’t able to handle real life.The novel covers all types of mental health issues and how they affect young people. It explores
the idea of the “problem child” and the reasons that young people might act out, but it never reduces its characters to victims. Kit and her friends are responsible for their actions, and face consequences. The novel reflects how the path to recovery is not linear, and Kit must put in a lot of work in order to get on the right track. Her trauma is not immediately fixed as soon as she decides to seek out help, which is why her victories feel so rewarding.
Even though the book handles some very serious themes, it never diminishes these with the sense of magic that it creates. Kit’s imagined Neverland is beautiful, but it is also dangerous. The monsters in her mind manifest as real monsters in this world, so it’s clear that even though Neverland is Kit’s escape, it’s not safe for her to stay there and ignore the dangers of the real world.
McGovern’s text is beautifully descriptive and often chilling, creating suspense that builds up and leaves the reader desperate for answers. She expertly combines the magical and the mundane so that the readers sometimes forget they aren’t reading a swashbuckling fantasy novel. The readers find themselves swept up in the world just as easily as Kit, giving Neverland a uniquely mystical feeling for a novel with a modern setting.