Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retellings, Fairytales
“Let me tell you something straight off. This is a love story, but not like any you've ever heard. The boy and the girl are far from innocent. Dear lives are lost. And good doesn't win. In some places, there is something ultimately good about endings. In Neverland, that is not the case.”
My body is not enough to contain the largeness of Tiger Lily's beauty.
This is a book of fiction, but not like any I've ever read. It was enthralling in its simplicity, and I absorbed every sound, every rustle of the leaves and boom of the waves crashing on tumultuous shores and plash of the mermaids' tails when they retreated into their domain in the depths of the sea, I inhaled every smell, the mustiness of the swamp and the liquor in the pirates' breath, I hurt my legs while running among fallen branches and I gathered dewdrops with Tinker Bell. And just like her, when tragedies occured, and pieces inside of me where broken and scattered, I could do nothing to stop them, but I also I could never look away, caught up in the longing and sadness and weakness of the characters.
An invitation. A dare. A challenge. A promise of adventure. In the faraway island of Neverland, the concept of time is fluid. Magical beasts build their nests in the tropical forests, fairies and mermaids interveve in the lives of humans, native tribes keep up with their traditions and never get old, pirates pillage and plunder and fight their never-ending war with the lost boys. The lost boys. Tiger Lily, the daughter of Tik Tok, the shaman of the Sky Eaters tribe, has heard horrible stories about them. People say she is cursed by the crows, and even though she can't tell whether that's true or merely a superstition, she has the heart of a beast, and a tendency to help lost causes. In one of these missions, she comes across the infamous Peter Pan, and she doesn't know what to make of him. He can be vicious and tender at the same time, distant and aloof and then warm and caring, but never consistent. There's something about Tiger Lily that calls to him, and soon the lost boys adopt her like a second family. But her father needs her. Her tribe needs her. Torn between her wildest desires and her need to keep her promises, haunted by a potential murderer and trying to balance her life, Tiger Lily soons discovers the cost of growing up. Of loving and being loved.
“Sometimes I think that maybe we are just stories. Like we may as well just be words on a page, because we're only what we've done and what we are going to do.”
After I finished Tiger Lily, I was left with a bittersweet melancholy that soaked my bones. I am humbled by Jodi Lynn Anderson's talent, she managed to capture the very essence of magic, and eloquently channeled it through Tinker Bell's narration. Such narration was one of the highlights of the book; Tink recounted the events that started off when Tiger Lily decided to save an Englishman like whispering a moving tale with a soft voice. The element of foreboding was strong, her descriptions lush, the dialogues scarce and suprisingly I didn't mind at all, because they were not necessary. By means of gestures and delving into the thoughts of every single character, I could experience enough of their emotions. But at the same time, there was a tiny barrier between them and me, and I am grateful for that because otherwise the heartache would be too powerful to handle.
“To love someone was not what she had expected. It was like falling from somewhere high up and breaking in half, and only one person having the secret to the puzzle of putting her back together.”
The mythology of Neverland was intricately woven into the multiple stories of love and loss Tinker Bell witnessed. Tik Tok, Tiger Lily, Peter, they all broke each other, but I cannot tell who started it and who finished it. It was a vicious circle, where everyone was innocent and guilty, from Captain Hook who caused a pang of sumpathy despite his crimes, and quiet and thoughful Pine Sap to the main dramatis personae, who were beautiful and ugly. I cannot claim that I understood Peter, but I suspect that was the whole point. Even he couldn't understand himself. He was fearless and independent yet he needed someone to look after him and overlook his shortcomings. But Tiger Lily could not do that. She had a strong (and sometimes misguided I dare say) sense of honor, she was fierce, brave, and confused, because she couldn't always process or interprete what her heart demanded. What every heart demands.
“I never expected that you could have a broken heart and love with it too, so much that it doesn't seem broken at all.”
In the end, what Tiger Lily, and Peter, and I came to understand, was that there are many different and unique kinds of love, and you experience them only once, each with a certain person. Or a certain story. Jodi Lynn Anderson's retelling of Neverland was a marvel, and I will always cherish its wildness and weirdness deeply.