Review: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson (Spoiler-Free)

TIGER LILY4 stars

Jodi Lynn Anderson//Tiger LilySUMMARY

A dark re-imagining of J.M. Barrie’s classic, Peter Pan, which abandon’s Peter to instead focus on the character of Tiger Lily – who she was, where she came from, what motivated her, and how she effected the story of Peter Pan in ways that Barrie’s work failed to tell us. This is both a prequel and a re-telling, and follows Tiger Lily from her childhood, through her early encounters with Peter and the Lost Boys, all the way to her teenage years, when the events of Peter Pan take place.

Tiger Lily was written by Jodi Lynn Anderson, and originally published in 2012.

STORY [4/5]

There are several different threads to follow in the story: The first with the mysterious Englander, and his effect on Tiger Lily’s village; the second follows the pirates, particularly Smee; the third is the story of Tiger Lily and Peter’s first meeting, and then their developing relationship. And then, towards the end of the book, everything comes together very neatly with the inclusion of the events of the original tale of Peter Pan – but with a surprising twist! – all of which were well-written and thought-out.

The main themes of the book were great, too, and included many hard-hitting topics, including bullying, peer pressure, first love, unrequited love, betrayal, religion, and gender roles.

CHARACTERS [4/5]

First of all, I should say that, although the story was about Tiger Lily, I really felt that the star was Tinker Bell, who narrated the book, and was portrayed amazingly throughout. Her voice was sympathetic, yet strange enough that you’ll never forget that she isn’t human. She was also in the interesting position of being sidelined from the main action, even though she is constantly present – her attempts to intervene in the plot are largely ignored by the other characters, since she is unable to speak to them.

Tiger Lily, the titular character, was also excellently fleshed-out, and although I wasn’t always on her side, I was always able to understand her perspective, and sympathise with her predicament. She’s an incredibly strong character, and it was really interesting to be inside her head (via Tink’s mind-reading ability), especially since she’s quite introspective, and doesn’t talk all that much.

Our last main character is Peter, who was much as he always is in Peter Pan retellings: brave and adventurous and cocky and wild and careless. In this, however, we also got to see a more vulnerable side of him, which Anderson put a lot of emphasis into. It was very well-done, and it made his relationship with Tiger Lily feel very realistic.

There was a great set of side characters, too (too many to mention them all), but these were the most important: Tik Tok, Tiger Lily’s adoptive father and the village shaman, who was a brilliant addition to the cast; Pine Sap, her childhood friend, who really came into his own towards the end of the book; Giant, another villager, who was utterly loathsome; and Smee, who made a surprisingly chilling antagonist.

I had only one small problem with the characters, and that was how they had all been aged up, presumably so that the romance in the story wouldn’t feel unnatural. The emphasis on childhood in Peter Pan was probably the most important part of the story, and so it was a shame that Anderson felt the need to change it (though I definitely understand why she did, considering the themes that she decided to focus on instead).

ROMANCE [4/5]

The romance between Peter and Tiger Lily was slow-building, and progressed very naturally, and it was easy to sense the tenderness between them, even though they didn’t always understand one another. The story wasn’t overly-romantic, but I felt that that was an advantage, as it allowed more emphasis to be put on Tiger Lily as an individual character, and on her platonic relationships with Tik Tok, Pine Sap, Moon Eye, and the Lost Boys, as well as her developing feelings for Peter.

WORLD/WORLD-BUILDING [5/5]

Though Neverland will be familiar to anyone who knows the story of Peter Pan, Anderson managed to make it feel fresh, and incredibly haunting. Simultaneously dreamlike and realistic, this take on Neverland was a joy to read, and was my favourite aspect of the book. She also paid a lot of attention to building up the Sky Eaters, the tribe that Tiger Lily belongs to, and their culture and customs, which helps to set this apart from other versions of Neverland.

WRITING [4/5]

The writing was quite slow-paced, which made it a little difficult to get into at first, but still quick enough that the story didn’t drag on too much. Anderson’s prose is poetic without being flowery, and Tinker Bell’s voice as narrator was absolutely perfect.

OVERALL IMPRESSION [4/5]

A surprising, dark take on the story of Peter Pan and the events that preceded the story we’re all so familiar with, with really great, believable characters, deep themes, and beautifully haunting writing.

RECOMMENDED FOR…

Fans of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, naturally, and those who enjoy their fairytale retellings with a dark twist, à la The Sleeper & the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, or the Fables series by Bill Willingham. In regards to style, Tiger Lily felt similar to books like Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

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