Wendy Darling

Wendy Darling: A Novel - Colleen Oakes

This is a pretty dark version of Peter Pan, and I loved that about it.

 

I have heard tell that originally, Peter himself was supposed to be the villain of the piece, and the entire premise of the original novel, with someone coming to the window and taking children away to a land full of some seriously dangerous stuff, is actually a lot creepier as an adult than it seemed as a child. This novel capitalizes on that creepiness and turns it up to eleven.

 

I'm a sucker for re-tellings of stories. I came into it through Arthurian legend and stuck around through fairy tales and fanfiction and everything under the sun, because I love having a new viewpoint on familiar ideas. Watching how things are going to be twisted away from the original and then back again brings me great joy, and that is one of the levels on which I enjoyed this novel.

 

The other primary level was as a piece of dark fantasy. This is not Disney's Neverland. It's not even really J.M. Barrie's. It is a dark and primal place, part Lord of the Flies, even, and full of magic and things to discover. The discoveries are rarely good things in the end.

 

Playing up the entire idea of the Lost Boys was a brilliant idea, and it worked to make the book eerie on several levels. They are lost, both because they have lost their homes and identities and because they have lost their humanity, almost; they are not working towards growing up, as most children are, but almost away from the idea, or at least taking "growing up" down a darker route than most do.

 

The concept that something has happened to Neverland peeks its head out just often enough to remind you that there is something stranger going on through here, but the characters really get center stage throughout. It is not strictly a character study--there is certainly a plot, and quite a bit of adventure--but sorting out how the characters interact and the motives of each seems to be the main point of this particular arc in Wendy's story.

 

Because this is Wendy's story. Peter Pan certainly co-stars, and his history will probably be explained further throughout the series, but Wendy is the primary focus here, especially in her relationships.

 

I don't want to suggest this is a love story. It is not. There are some elements of that here, but her relationship with her brothers and even her parents are just as important, if not more so, than her relationships with any potential love interests.

 

Wendy herself is easy to root for--she is more self-aware than a lot of YA heroines, and even her moments of slipping are easily explained through plot mechanisms or just plain the fact that she is young and scared. She develops a bit more of a backbone throughout the novel, but she does not start as a shrinking violet, and it is nice to see that her care for Michael and the other boys is not undervalued or depreciated in any way--it is a part of her character, and a solid part, but not all of it, and not even all she is valued for. She is more than just a nursemaid and motherly character, as she often seems to end up.

 

As a heads up, the ending is a bit dangling. There's a clear enough stopping point to the story arc that it didn't feel completely out of the blue, but this is very clearly the beginning of a series (and I must admit I didn't realize that going in), so you will have a bunch of unanswered questions at the end. I'm excited about picking up the next one, though; seeing where this goes should be quite fun.

 

This book was provided to me for free by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.