I’ve been meaning to read Christina Henry’s book for awhile now, ever since her first novel
Alice’ got released back in 2015 and people praised it for its dark twist. Since then she’s released five books in this vain, including The Lost Boy, and The Girl In Red having been published earlier this year.
I was lucky enough to acquire this copy back when I worked in a bookstore (oh how I miss that job!) but somehow didn’t get round to reading it until now – a whole year and a half later. Isn’t that always the way?
There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth. This is how it happened. How I went from being Peter Pan’s first—and favorite—lost boy to his greatest enemy.
Peter brought me to his island because there were no rules and no grownups to make us mind. He brought boys from the Other Place to join in the fun, but Peter’s idea of fun is sharper than a pirate’s sword. Because it’s never been all fun and games on the island. Our neighbors are pirates and monsters. Our toys are knife and stick and rock—the kinds of playthings that bite.
Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever.
Let’s just start with, this book was, as they say, right up my street. A dark fairy-tale retelling from the view of the ‘villain’ that contrasts what we think we know? Sign me up this instant, I honestly don’t know why I put off reading this for so long!
First off, this book, although knowing it was a dark retelling, was actually a dark retelling. It was serious and gory and very much in the same style that Lord of the Flies was; young boys with no responsibility and no authority being allowed and encouraged to run rampant and behave as they please.
The boys on the island are of course led by Peter (Pan), and Christina Henry’s take on his character is ruthless and flips any expectations we have of him on its head. Yes, he just wants to have fun and never grow up, but he is also reckless and feckless and cares only about himself and having the best time all the time. If it doesn’t benefit him, why care?
This iteration of Peter is inherently selfish and stubborn, his interactions with the rest of the boys are solely to get them to do what he wants to do. You truly see him act his age which is fascinating. I found him to be very grating which is basically the point, so that was very well done!
Our main character however, is Jamie, Jamie was the first boy that Peter brought to the island and there is a near mutual obsession between them. Jamie is the oldest, most experienced boy and the book begins with his disillusionment of life on the island and life under Peter. Jamie’s development through the book was so interesting, we really see him come into his own and become his own person.
We see him grow up.
It’s very rare we get to see it happen whilst the character is still so young and yet so wisened and it’s a really interesting take on growing up, on what defines us as people and becoming our own person. Seeing the relationships that Jamie has with all characters get explored was very eye-opening, especially with Charlie – the beginning of his progression as a person, and Sal – the beginning of his progression to an adult.
I really loved reading this story from Jamie’s point of view, he was such a complex character and it was really interesting to watch him evolve and develop into the inevitable. It was entirely engrossing to see it play out in this way.
“Because Peter promised them adventures and happiness and then took them away to the island where they died. They weren’t forever young, unless dying when you were young kept you that way for always.”
The central theme of growing up is naturally prevalent in a re-telling of Peter Pan, but also important are the themes of independence and responsibility and love in its different forms.
We see multiple boys struggle with gaining their independence and beginning to stand on their own two feet. Which also ties into the themes of love in its different forms as they start to grow emotionally so does how they view those around them. Many of them begin by idolising Peter, their saviour, and it’s fascinating to see how it twists as they grow. I thought this book was very well-thought out and whilst completely turning the tale of Peter Pan on its head, kept true to the main story, just giving us an entirely different view point to consider. Whilst we know this is a re-telling, it gets us thinking if this could be true? What if this is the real story? It’s fascinating.
Overall, if you can’t tell, I really enjoyed this book, I got truly absorbed and would thoroughly recommend this to horror fantasy fans.