Thank you to NetGalley and Titan Books for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
For those that lived there, Neverland was a children’s paradise. No rules, no adults, only endless adventure and enchanted forests all led by the charismatic boy who would never grow old.
But Wendy Darling grew up. She has a husband and a young daughter called Jane, a life in London. But one night, after all these years, Peter Pan returns. Wendy finds him outside her daughter’s window, looking to claim a new mother for his Lost Boys. But instead of Wendy, he takes Jane. Now a grown woman, a mother, a patient and a survivor, Wendy must follow Peter back to Neverland to rescue her daughter and finally face the darkness at the heart of the island.
The first fifty percent of this felt really similar to Lost Boy by Christina Henry. I think the problem is there are so many Peter Pan retellings (don’t get me wrong, I love that there are), that it seems easier to make Peter a dark character to contrast with the J.M Barrie and the Disney versions but it is harder to make him stand out amongst other dark retellings. This is obviously not exactly like the Henry version since for one, that one concentrates on the relationship between Hook and Pan and this one on Wendy and Pan but there are definitely similarities.
This book looks at two timelines, present and the past which focuses on Wendy returning from Neverland with her brothers who promptly ‘forget’ Neverland and at her insistence of its existence, have her committed. There are definitely trigger warnings for trauma and abuse during her time there and the book follows her journey in refusing to give up Neverland but still lead a ‘normal’ life and rebuild that relationship with her brothers, one of which has seen the terrors that come with being a soldier during a World War. Whilst there is a minor focus on family, the main focus is on the mother daughter relationship between Wendy and her daughter, Jane.
I am not sure on the Native representation in this as I am not Native but it does feel like their heritage becomes invisible. Wendy’s best friend, Mary, is Canadian Indigenous but does not know much about her culture beyond that her name is Mary White Dog. Even the way Tiger Lily in Neverland is later portrayed makes me think of trying to make Native people invisible. This is just my interpretation and as I said, I am not Native or Indigenous so I welcome the opinion of those who are. I think including Tiger Lily in retellings is a choice and there should be emphasis on doing it properly and making it good rep.
I didn’t really fall in love with any of these characters and always felt a bit distanced from all of them. I am not sure if that’s how you are supposed to feel with Wendy, who keeps her secrets close to her chest as they slowly come out throughout the book. I definitely preferred the second half of the book as it then felt different to Lost Boy and the characters came into their own. Whilst I think the ending did wrap everything up, it raised some questions that were never answered and whilst I understand that Wendy and Jane as narrators might not know all the answers there were still one or two things that confused me.
Overall, I think this is a decent book. I do love reading Peter Pan retellings and for that reason, it is hard not to compare them but if you love dark retellings you might like this one, it just wasn’t for me.
Trigger Warnings: Child Death, Torture, Bullying, Confinement, Death, Physical Abuse, Violence, Forced Institutionalization, Death of a Parent.
Rep: Gay Side Character, PTSD