Favorite Quote: “I hate Peter Pan.”
Reviewed by Tori
There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth. This is how it happened. How I went from being Peter Pan’s first—and favorite—lost boy to his greatest enemy.
Peter brought me to his island because there were no rules and no grownups to make us mind. He brought boys from the Other Place to join in the fun, but Peter’s idea of fun is sharper than a pirate’s sword. Because it’s never been all fun and games on the island. Our neighbors are pirates and monsters. Our toys are knife and stick and rock—the kinds of playthings that bite.
Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever.
Peter lies. (Goodreads)
After Christina Henry’s masterful retelling of Alice in Wonderland, she brings her talent to J.M. Barres’ story of Peter Pan, subverting the tale into a darker frame as we see Peter Pan through the eyes of his greatest enemy and former best friend…Captain Hook.
“Peter will say I’m a villain, that I wronged him, that I never was his friend. But I told you already. Peter lies. This is what really happened.”
Jamie, the narrator of the story, is one of the first Lost Boys and Peter Pan’s best friend. Though he looks to be between eight and twelve, he is in reality 100 plus years old and he has slowly grown disillusioned with his endless childhood and the burdens placed on him by Peter’s callousness, irresponsibility, and perpetually need for adoration.
“I had been with Peter longer than I’d been in the Other Place, longer than I could count, anyway.”
Jamie assumes responsibility for the boys Peter brings over from the Other Place though Peter insults him by frequently comparing him to the dreaded grown up for babying and mothering the boys. It doesn’t take long for Jamie and the others to realize that never growing up doesn’t mean immortality. Neverland is an island of adventure of unseen dangers with pirates, crocodiles, sharks, mermaids, and other vicious beings inhabiting the landscape.
“The island takes them and chews them up.“
And when the boys succumb to death one by one (through illness or other methods), Jamie is the one who buries and mourns him. When Peter lures an orphaned five-year-old to the island against Jamie’s advice, Jamie finds himself in the role of protector when Peter grows jealous of Charlie and seeks to permanently get rid of him.
“I stared after him, felt the familiar mix of love and worship and frustration that I often felt with Peter. You couldn’t change him. He didn’t want to be changed. That was why he lived on the island in the first place.”
Fans of Disney’s or Barres’ versions of Peter Pan will be hard pressed to conjure up the usual feeling of nostalgia over their childhood favorite with this version. Though this is a story filled with the magic and mayhem of childhood fantasies, it is also a story of murder, madness, and violence. Henry keeps the story fresh and energetic with diabolical twists and turns to keep us guessing. Dynamic characterization and narration bring the story to life as Henry shows us how Captain Hook came to be and why.
“Peter needed to be the hero, so somebody needed to be a villain.”
In here, Peter Pan is a narcissistic sociopath who uses the island of Neverland and the fear of growing old to entice children into joining him in his never ending quest for adventure and excitement. But as always, promises from the devil come at a high price.
“To Peter, all children were replaceable (except for himself). When he lost one here on the island he would go get a new one, preferable an unwanted one, because then the boy didn’t miss the Other Place so much and he was happy to be here and to do what Peter wanted.”
There is a Lord of the Flies feeling in here as Jamie gives voice to the rot and anger festering underneath the surface of Peter and the island. Peter encourages the violence and bloodshed of the their games and it’s only after Jamie rips aside the last remaining vestiges of his childhood does he learn exactly why. Peter’s final and most brutal betrayal of Jamie combined with Henry’s subtle nods towards Wendy and Tinkerbell floods the story with anticipation and sorrow as Henry prepares us for the end.
“Peter will never let me go. If I’m not to be his playmate and friend, then I am to be his playmate and enemy. He brought me to this island and he swore I would never leave and so I haven’t.”
Once again, Henry takes readers on an adventure of epic and horrific proportions as she reinvents a childhood classic using our own fears and desires. Her smooth prose and firm writing hooked me up instantly and held me hostage to the very end. I am firmly team Captain Hook and I hope there will be a sequel.