Castle Librarian

Sucking the Magic Out of Neverland

In Book Review, Reading on June 14, 2014 at 1:11 pm

book cover image
Tiger Lily

Very rarely a book will completely infuriate me. I can’t even remember what the last title was, but Tiger Lily is 301 pages of “you’ve got to be kidding me.” I cannot recommend this book. I do recommend you use your time more profitably doing anything else.

There will be blatant spoilers in this review.

First, let’s talk about the real Neverland. Neverland is a place of imagination, the desire of any 7-10 year old where adventure reigns. There are pirates, indians, mermaids, lions, tigers, bears, OH MY! There is a pack of wild boys who don’t have to bathe, who climb trees, who live underground in a secret hideaway, and never have to grow up. They are led by a boy who is gay and innocent and heartless, because, according to J.M. Barrie, this is what children are. It is a multilayered story about childhood and the transition to adulthood.

[If you haven’t read the original book, please do. Don’t rely on Disney’s movie version.]

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson deconstructs Neverland so that all that is recognizable is the names of the characters. Many (too many) authors who write young adult literature seem to think it must contain “teen issues.” Anderson manages to work in dysfunctional families, mean girls, gender issues, alcoholism, serial killing, destruction of culture through a Victorian age missionary, rape/sexual abuse, murder, suicide, death of a loved one, and “the friend zone.” Even with that list, I’m sure I’ve missed something. The author doesn’t really deal with any of these issues. She just struts them across the stage.

Now, is it technically well written. Yes. If you went through and changed all the characters’ names and the name of the island, it would be a very interesting, although mostly depressing, read.

Anderson has sucked all the magic out of Neverland. Her Neverland is an actual island somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean and people come there by way of shipwreck. Captain Hook didn’t really lose his hand in a fight with Peter. He is not pursued by the crocodile who ate his severed hand thereby getting a taste for him. No, he is a mean drunk who lost his hand in a factory accident prior to becoming a pirate. Mr. Smee is a serial killer who had a successful spree in the streets of London before being recruited by Captain Hook and for some unknown reason agrees to be Hook’s flunky. There is no fairy dust and no flying, other than Tinker Bell. Fairies are, apparently, just one more exotic animal on this remote island. Mermaids are also just exotic creatures. They are mean and would like nothing better than to drown you and build their undersea houses with your bones. The tribe to which Tiger Lily belongs is not the tomahawk packing, scalping redskins that Barrie described, but are islanders who build houses (not tepees) and have a truce with the pirates that makes life mostly peaceful.

Peter Pan is described as approximately 16 years old, because the other misconception authors have is that teens only want to read about teens. So, instead of a pre-puberty rambunctious boy, Peter is looking for a girl friend. He has already broken the heart of Maeryn, the mermaid. He is currently in a dysfunctional romance with Tiger Lily and will eventually end up with Wendy, well I presume it is Wendy that he marries in the end although it is not explicitly stated.

Tiger Lily is a free spirit, a tomboy, a bit of an outsider. She faces tradition and expectations.

“What you did was very brave,” said Aunt Sticky Feet, her words clipped, but not unkind, “but men don’t want women who are brave. They want women who make them feel like men.”
“I don’t care about that” said Tiger Lily.
…”Someday you’ll want to be a prisoner to someone other than yourself.” page 39

There are many strong female protagonists in young adult literature these days. Maybe too many. Bella of Twilight is definitely NOT one of them. She is the weakest female character I’ve read in a long while and, I’m afraid, despite all her tomboy ways, Tiger Lily falls in the Bella camp. Tiger Lily defies her tribe and sneaks off to be with Peter Pan, yet she submits to an arranged marriage. Not just an arranged marriage, but a marriage to the village rapist. Her relationship with Peter is dysfunctional and fits Aunt Sticky Feet’s description of being a prisoner of someone else. Peter also fits Aunt Sticky Feet’s description since he is uncomfortable with how strong Tiger Lily is and prefers the feminine wiles (read “manipulations”) of Wendy, who praises him and makes him feel superior.

The first paragraph of chapter one of Tiger Lily:

“Let me tell you something straight off. This is a love story, but not like any you’ve heard. The boy and the girl are far from innocent. Dear lives are lost. And good doesn’t win. In come places, there is something ultimately good about endings. In Neverland, that is not the case.”

Yet, the author wraps this story up with a pretty ribbon in the last chapter, which is really just an epilogue. Peter returns to London with Wendy and fathers a son. Tinker Bell follows many years later to spy on him which is how we come to know his fate. She returns to Neverland to find that Tiger Lily has happily married Pine Sap, her childhood companion. Everything is hunky dory. This book suffers from “happily ever after.” Hey, teens, your real life may be horrible right now, but when you grow up and get married it’ll all be happy, happy, happy.

Anderson, Jodi Lynn. Tiger Lily. Sydney: Orchard, 2012. Print. 9781408330449

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