Peter Pan is one of my favourite classic children’s novels, so when I heard there was a book about Tiger Lily’s relationship with Peter (before Wendy came into the picture) I knew I had to check it out. Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson (Harper Teen) follows the title character as she meets and is changed by the infamous Peter Pan. This is a somewhat more mature imagining of Peter Pan than we are used to—he’s around fifteen years old and not quite as naïve when it comes to girls. Tiger Lily acts as both a prequel and a refreshing reinterpretation of the classic story.
If you know anything about Peter Pan, you will know that this story can’t have a happy ending. And even if you thought that just maybe things would turn out differently this time round, the narrator sets you straight from the first chapter: “This is a love story, but not like any you’ve heard. […]In some places, there is something ultimately good about endings. In Neverland, that is not the case.”
So why read on knowing this? Because you can’t help but read on. From the first chapter Tiger Lily had me enchanted. It is melancholy, magical and absolutely beautiful.
Tiger Lily is unlike any heroine I’ve encountered. She has a very hard shell around her heart which few can penetrate. She is self-involved, solemn and ruthless, but at the same time she is brave, strong-willed and actually quite loving. From the outside she is not the most likable character, but she is wonderfully complex and very interesting.
What surprised—and delighted—me most about this story is that it is told by Tinkerbell, who happens to be one of my favourite characters. Tink flits silently around the fringes of Tiger Lily’s life but she makes an excellent narrator. Through her fairy senses, she offers unique insights into the minds of all the characters. Also, her little anecdotes and mischievous behaviours are quite comical and a very nice touch.
Tiger Lily is much more than a story of Peter Pan, or even of a young girl’s first love. Mixed into this tale are the heavy issues of gender and colonization, among others. This story is both quiet and provocative, gentle and powerful. Like the tide rising slowly around a beached canoe, it picks you up and carries you softly away to somewhere unexpected. Upon arrival will you discover your heart has been affected by this new Neverland? Mine was.
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