Review: Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Hook’s Revenge by Heidi SchulzHook's Revenge by Heidi Schulz
Series: Hook's Revenge #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on September 16, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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three-stars

Captain Hook's feisty daughter hits the high seas to avenge her father's death at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile in Heidi Schulz's spirited middle-grade debut.

Twelve-year-old Jocelyn dreams of becoming every bit as daring as her infamous father, Captain James Hook. Her grandfather, on the other hand, intends to see her starched and pressed into a fine society lady. When she's sent to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb's Finishing School for Young Ladies, Jocelyn's hopes of following in her father's fearsome footsteps are lost in a heap of dance lessons, white gloves, and way too much pink.

So when Jocelyn receives a letter from her father challenging her to avenge his untimely demise at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile, she doesn't hesitate-here at last is the adventure she has been waiting for. But Jocelyn finds that being a pirate is a bit more difficult than she'd bargained for. As if attempting to defeat the Neverland's most fearsome beast isn't enough to deal with, she's tasked with captaining a crew of woefully untrained pirates, outwitting cannibals wild for English cuisine, and rescuing her best friend from a certain pack of lost children, not to mention that pesky Peter Pan who keeps barging in uninvited.

The crocodile's clock is always ticking in Heidi Schulz's debut novel, a story told by an irascible narrator who is both dazzlingly witty and sharp as a sword. Will Jocelyn find the courage to beat the incessant monster before time runs out?

This, friends, is one of those times where my own history works against me. Every book one reads is affected by the books that one has read previously. What to one person is highly original is to another nothing special, as the latter has read more widely in that genre. Hook’s Revenge suffers from my past reading. Oh, it was funny and cute and were my reading history different, I probably would have loved it. As it is, though, I was a bit put off by similarities to a previous read. Hook’s Revenge was still a fun and quick read that didn’t detract from my vacation, but it wasn’t all that I’d hoped.

Let’s get the detraction out of the way first. Last year at BEA, I got a copy of Caroline Carlson’s Magic Marks the Spot and absolutely loved it. That book is about a girl who wants to be a pirate, even though the pirate league doesn’t allow girls and her father expects more feminine behavior from his heir. She is sent to a finishing school for ladies, but escapes to be a pirate. The first half of Hook’s Revenge is practically identical, adding in the difference that Jocelyn’s father is a pirate (Captain Hook) and her grandfather is the one who sends her to finishing school. Though I don’t think these similarities are nefarious, they did keep me from being as impressed with Hook’s Revenge as I otherwise might have been. I’m sure that by the time Magic Marks the Spot came out, Schulz was already well into writing Hook’s Revenge. It’s just one of those odd coincidences. I do think both are fantastic middle grades, so I suspect readers will prefer whichever one they happen to read first.

Schulz makes use of a framing device, wherein the narrator of Hook’s Revenge is an irascible old pirate. Generally, I’m not one for such framing techniques, preferring to get the story more directly. Think, for example, of the horrible framing in Wuthering Heights. In this case, though, I found the conceit amusing. This poor old pirate is forced to speak to obnoxious children, aka the reader, about Jocelyn Hook’s adventures. No one who knows me is shocked that I enjoyed the pirate’s insults of kids, and I imagine young readers appreciate them as well. Plus, it’s pretty powerful that this pirate was won over by Jocelyn, despite the unfortunate fact of her being a child.

Hook’s Revenge truly is a funny read and a fun take on Peter Pan. It’s refreshing to throw a girl like Jocelyn into a story that is so boy-focused as Peter Pan. Yes, Wendy and Tiger Lily and Tinkerbell are all around, but two of them essentially work for the boys in one capacity or another. Jocelyn has much more agency and dreams of a non-traditional gender role. That’s actually one of my favorite things in fiction, particularly middle grade. I love when authors show that it’s totally cool for kids to enjoy activities that historically were not deemed acceptable for their gender. This is how minds are opened.

“I have been the headmistress of this school for nearly three decades. In that time many a young lady has appeared at my door, unrefined in either manners, appearance, or both. Not once have I failed to turn the girl into a lady worthy of her class and distinction. No exceptions.”

Miss Eliza stood a moment longer, silently appraising the girl.

“You may go now. I expect you are feeling tired from your journey.

Jocelyn gave Miss Eliza her most irksome smile and replied, “Actually, I’m feeling rather exceptional,” then turned heel and followed the chambermaid to her room, taking care to scuff her shoes on the polishes wood floor the whole way.

Quotes like this one are why I enjoyed Hook’s Revenge. There’s a lot of clever repartee. Not to mention the fact that Jocelyn is sassy as can be. She will defend her right to be who she is until her last breath, which is basically what Hook’s Revenge is about. Don’t let people put you in a box if your dream is to be on a pirate ship.

The plot is fairly episodic in nature, though with the overarching goal of becoming a pirate and obtaining Hook’s revenge on the crocodile. Along the way, Jocelyn will encounter many of the real world’s and Neverland’s dangers. She tackles each one with her adventurous spirit and clever mind. The lessons are good ones and delivered in an entertaining fashion. I think I enjoyed best the interactions, rather than the actual adventures, but that’s probably just me.

Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz is cute and funny, an adventure for those looking for humor or who dream of the pirate life. You might, however, need to pick your poison: Magic Marks the Spot or Hook’s Revenge.

Favorite Quote:

There is no use putting it off any longer; it is time to tell what I know, lest the girl’s story die with me. Settle in, I suppose. Do be sure not to touch anything, and for heaven’s sake, please don’t breathe so loudly. If you’re quite comfortable, I’ll pour myself a little drink and begin. If you are not comfortable, I’ll begin anyway. Your comfort is of little concern to me.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif lady pirate caribbean

3 responses to “Review: Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz”

  1. I had mentally compared this to Magic Marks the Spot after reading the summary but had hoped that the Peter Pan aspects were enough to set it apart. Sounds real cute still but I might wait some time before picking it up since Magic Marks the Spot (and the 2nd installment) is still fresh in my mind. Great review. 🙂
    Bonnie @ For the Love of Words recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday – The Dead Lands: A Novel by Benjamin PercyMy Profile

  2. Anya says:

    Thanks for the warning about similarities to Magic Marks the Spot since I think I’d feel quite similar D:
    Anya recently posted…Infinite Harmony by Tammy Blackwell Cover Reveal + Sale!My Profile

  3. Heidi says:

    Boo, I’d probably feel the same about those similarities with Magic Marks the Spot despite it’s cuteness.
    Heidi recently posted…Wilder Days: Interview and Giveaway with Little Author in the Big Woods: A Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Yona Zeldis McDonoughMy Profile

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