Review: Darling Girl by Liz Michalski

Summary: Life is looking up for Holly Darling. She’s running a successful skincare company; her son, Jack, is happy and healthy; and the tragedy of her past is well behind her . . . until she gets a call that her daughter, Eden, who has been in a coma for nearly a decade, has gone missing from the estate where she’s been long tucked away. And, worst of all, Holly knows who must be responsible: Peter Pan, who is not only very real, but more dangerous than anyone could imagine.

Holly has no one to turn to–her mother is the only other person in the world who knows that Peter is more than a story, but she refuses to accept that he is not the hero she’s always imagined. Desperate, Holly enlists the help of Christopher Cooke, a notorious ex-soldier, in the hopes of rescuing Eden before it’s too late.

Genre: fantasy, retelling
Rating: ★★

Peter Pan is one of those stories that I’ve always held a little too close to my heart. There’s something about the idea of never growing up; of a magical world full of fairies, mermaids, and pirates. There’s a complete romanticization of the story, with lines like, “You know that place between sleep and awake? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.”

I’m also, unsurprisingly, a fan of twisted versions of fairytales, so when I read the synopsis I thought I would love this story. Instead, I found myself angry, confused, and, at times, downright disgusted with some of the concepts in this story. This book tries so hard to be edgy and dark, but it winds up pushing the limits and loses any credibility here. I’m on the fence about whether books should incorporate trigger warnings, but considering the heavy subjects in this book, I felt like there should have been some kind of warning for readers.

Trigger warnings that are included: rape, sexual assault, drug abuse, murder, thoughts of suicide, physical and mental abuse, death/murder of children.

There’s a LOT to unpack in this book, and this review will contain spoilers.

As I mentioned, I’m a sucker for dark retellings, but there were so many wild subplots here that the story started to lose me. Holly’s husband and one child are killed in a car accident. She has a sexual relationship with Peter Pan amidst her grief, including a time where Peter rapes her (this scene is incredibly brief but also graphic). She gives birth to his child, who has magical fairy blood. The child winds up in a coma, and Holly uses her daughter’s magic blood initially to medically heal her third child, but eventually spirals and begins using it for her…cosmetics and skincare company??

When Holly’s daughter is kidnapped, Holly flies back to the UK to find her (and let’s just take a moment to pause here, because I think it’s worth mentioning how Holly left her comatose daughter in a house attended to by nurses and moved herself and her other living child -who has zero recollection or knowledge of his sister!- to the US to launch her brand). Holly hires a private detective to hunt down Peter, and it turns out he’s lacing drugs and selling them to teenage boys who eventually overdose on them.

Look. If you can handle all of that and not feel some level of discomfort or rage, then give this book a chance. This book currently has over 2,000 four-or-five-star ratings out of 3,200 total, so clearly I’m the outlier here, but this absolutely rubbed me the wrong way. Peter Pan being a rapist, kidnapper, and a drug dealer was so unbelievable to me, and that says a lot considering I can get behind the fact that he’s a fictional character who never grows older.

If there’s one person in this story who fared worse than Peter, it was Holly. I absolutely despised her and felt zero pity for her. The summary boasts about sacrifice, motherhood, and how far she’s willing to go to save her children, but I only ever felt angry with her for her choices, especially when it came to her children. One, if not both, of her children was always being neglected in some capacity. Her job was always more important; making phone calls was always a higher priority. And again, let’s not forget that she left one of her kids in another country for her own personal gain, and then claimed it was to protect her other child. Holly was insufferable and one of the worst book moms I’ve ever met, and her choices were so absurd that there was no redemption arc for her, no matter how badly the author tried to force it.

Not surprisingly, there were other aspects of this book that I didn’t enjoy. Some of it I could shrug off, like the lack of descriptions and the mere simplicity of the writing style. However, what really bothered me was that this book, which is surprisingly sluggish until about three quarters of the way through, did a terrible job with the climax and falling action. After an intensely long build up to the final scene, it’s over in a matter of paragraphs, and, worst of all, we don’t even get to see it happen. Instead, one of the characters tells Holly what happened, and suddenly everything is neatly wrapped up and taken care of.

This was the epitome of lazy writing, and it made me angry considering how much trash I had to sift through that was the beginning of the book only to be let down once again by the ending.

One thought on “Review: Darling Girl by Liz Michalski

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s