Monday, February 4, 2013
Pages: 292 (hardcover)
Published: 2012 by Harper Teen
Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn't believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.
Peter is unlike anyone she's ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything--her family, her future--to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she's always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.
With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it's the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who's everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.
Tiger Lily is a story perhaps more bittersweet even than the original classic tale of Peter Pan. As a reader with a meh opinion of the original Peter Pan, I found Jodi Lynn Anderson's clever and heartbreaking retelling to be much more readable. It's always a nice surprise when fanfiction turns out to be wonderful, even "published fanfiction". I love the fresh perspective of Tiger Lily, and the way Anderson delves deep into the background of both the previously silent main character and the whole multi-layered world of Neverland.
The story is narrated not by Tiger Lily, but by Tinkerbell (as Peter comes to call the little faery who trails after him and Tiger Lily). The sparkly, blond faery Tink with her jealous hissy fits who we're familiar with from the Disney adaptation is a far cry from the narrator of this book, though. Readers will definitely come to appreciate Tink's better qualities: her headstrong personality, her loyalty (again, forget the Disney version where she sells Peter out to Captain Hook), and most of all, her engaging first person voice. The novel reads as if it's narrated by a really close friend, one who sees all the happenings in Neverland and never withholds her opinions on them.
The world of Neverland is incredibly well-drawn and leads to such a good suspension-of-disbelief that I never once questioned mute faeries sleeping on windowsills, dinosaurs inhabiting a corner of the island, or man-eating mermaids. By giving not-so-subtle hints that Neverland is actually the North American continent prior to the mass arrival of Europeans, the author gives Tiger Lily's tribe a sense of dignity and tradition-- which is sooo necessary after what sorta-racist '50s Disney did with "What Made the Red Man Red?"
Tiger Lily herself is an outcast among her close-knit tribe, having been born in another and adopted by Tik Tok, the tribe's shaman and the closest thing they have to a leader. She is a wild girl, different from the other young women in her village, quiet but fierce. Her character is one who we come to care about, sympathizing with her for her outcast status and, as Tink does, her love for Peter Pan. The Lost Boys do not immediately come into the novel, but Peter becomes a major player quite suddenly, when we least expect it.
The Lost Boys of Tiger Lily are indeed somewhat lost: they have no family and have never known girls other than Peter's mermaid friends; some of them remember being shipwrecked from England. In this novel, Peter Pan is an interesting character, though I was disappointed to see, one without a true back story. He is truly a wild boy, and apparently has always been, moving silently through the jungle with his tribe of Lost Boys and, of course, evading the persistent Captain James Hook. Hook appears pretty rarely in Tiger Lily, this being Tiger Lily's story, but he does have a intriguing backstory. Surprisingly, the pirate who has the most shining moments is Smee, also known as Hook's big-bellied sidekick in the striped shirt. I won't give away any spoilers as to how Anderson interprets the character of Smee, but it's pretty wild.
Tiger Lily is a captivating read, with vividly re-interpreted characters. The ending is not exactly a happy one, as the very first line of the novel proclaims, but there is a great deal of bitter-sweetness throughout the whole story. I was surprised by how much I loved this book, and I think those who are on the fence about it should give Tiger Lily a read.