Tiger Lily is a much anticipated young adult release coming out by NYT bestselling author Jodi Lynn Anderson. I had not heard of it until a copy showed up in my ARCs from Harpercollins. However, the premise immediately intrigued me – a retelling of Peter Pan focusing on Tiger Lily of the Indian tribe? Yes! And with one fell swoop it was placed in the priority pile. Today finally afforded me the chance and, what’s more important, the mood to read it. So I cracked it opened and prepared to be amazed.
For the record, I love Peter Pan with a big, giant, throbbing heart of love. It’s one of my favourite books from my childhood. It’s something I’ve read a lot, and it’s inspired a future book related tattoo (that I will get when I can afford to). I love Peter Pan. He was my first literary boyfriend after all… him and his thimble kisses.
This book was a disappointment in so many ways. Frankly, I can’t say how I really feel about it without offending some people in the mix… so I’m going to tone it down a bit from my initial angry, swearing, hate-filled rant. I have only ever been so thoroughly offended by two other classic retellings in quite the same way as I am with this book… like, to the point where I slammed the book shut in annoyed frustration and just declared outright that I was done. This is the third one ever to hit my STOP button with such unmitigated force. Wow, this one was so not for me.
I’m going to presume that you all know the plot of Peter Pan, so I’ll spare you the recap. This one follows Tiger Lily of the native tribe as she grows up and befriends Pan and the Lost Boys. Where this differs from the original is in the fact that the boys and Pan are not magic in the least, and seem to be growing up on the island of Neverland. The Pirates also appear to be aging. Whether this aging problem is explained elsewhere in the book I couldn’t tell you, because I didn’t finish the last 150 pages. These details were the first indicators that I would be unhappy with this book.
Aging? In Neverland? What?!
So where else did it fail? Well, there’s the shoddy narration from Tinkerbell, the non-speaking fairy. The story is told in observances from her, which is fine and good, but she frequently switches POVs from third person (when she is talking about Tiger Lily and other characters) to first person (when she is talking about herself). These switches confused me and I lost sight of who the book was about in these intervals. I would actually forget that Tink was narrating until she suddenly had something occur to herself that distracted me from the story at hand… and then I would mistake her voice for Tiger Lily. It would have been better served if she had stuck to one point of view throughout the entire book because this technique just seemed haphazard and unwieldy.
So, what sealed the deal – the handling of the details from that book to this one… The “turning Peter Pan into a YA romance book” factor… I’m thinking specifically of the kiss. The infamous, beautiful kiss scene that we all know and love from the original story; the kiss that Wendy gives to Peter which he mistakes for a thimble. Well, at one point in the book Peter kisses Tiger Lily… a full, on the mouth, lingering, make-out scene worthy of any YA contemporary … and that’s where I shut the book. I could not in any way disassociate what was happening with what I already know about Pan… sweet and innocent Peter who doesn’t know kisses from thimbles and wouldn’t be able to execute one if his life depended on it… and here he is snogging Tiger Lily? Wrong, it’s just wrong… wrong like in March by Geraldine Brooks where Mr. March cheats ON MARMEE OF ALL PEOPLE… wrong like in Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys where the psycho-sexual/culture judgmental relationship between the two is what drove Bertha mad… bull. Plain and simple. I didn’t buy it in those two books and I’m not buying it now… Turning Peter into a non-magic, hormone driven 15 year old? Wrong. Just wrong.
So, clearly I disconnected. I think that is obvious. Retellings are always fraught with peril but in this case it was SO different than what I was expecting and SO not what I wanted it to be. The tone of the novel was not doing anything for me up until that point so it was very easy to put it down. Perhaps the fault lies in me? Perhaps I expect too much and shouldn’t… part of that “favourite book” syndrome. Retellings of certain things have got to be really..damn… good… in order to get away with revisiting certain stories. This, however, did not work. It didn’t work as a YA book and it has no place in Peter Pan fandom at all. I can’t have this book ruin for me what is otherwise a perfect reading experience.
1 out of 5 stars. The only thing redemptive about this book at all is Tiger Lily’s transgendered adoptive father, Tik tok… and that’s the only reason it gets a star at all.
*Tiger Lily releases July 3, 2012.