All boys grow up, except one.
On the tenth anniversary of her mother’s death, fourteen-year-old Madge Darling’s grandmother suffers a heart attack. With the overbearing Grandma Wendy in the hospital, Madge runs away to Chicago, intent on tracking down a woman she believes is actually her mother.
On her way to the Windy City, a boy named Peter Pan lures Madge to Neverland, a magical place where children can remain young forever. While Pan plays puppet master in a twisted game only he understands, Madge discovers the disturbing price of Peter Pan’s eternal youth.
[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]
I read Barrie’s book, as well as watched Disney’s Peter Pan movie, so long ago that I honestly can’t remember all details. Still, this retelling looked interesting, and so I decided to give it a try.
Madge, Wendy’s granddaughter, lives a not-so-happy life with her grandma, and keeps trying to escape to find her mother who may or may not be in Chicago. One night, when she finally gets a chance to leave, she gets spirited to Neverland: another chance, one to learn more about her family, her mum, and everything Wendy never told her. However, Neverland quickly turns out to be more terrifying than an enchanted island full of fairies and forever-boys. Clearly not the fairy tale a lot of children and people think about when they hear the name of ‘Peter Pan’ mentioned.
There are interesting themes and ideas in this book: what the boys’ rituals involve exactly, what happened to Jane, the slow disintegration of Neverland, what happened to Hook and Tiger Lily… I’ve always liked the “Hook as an ambiguous villain” approach, and here, he’s definitely of the ambiguous kind, since it’s 1) difficult to know if he wants to help or hinder, and 2) he’s no saint, but Pan is no saint either, so one can understand the bad blood between those two.
I was expecting more, though, and had trouble with some inconsistencies throughout the story. The time period, for one: it seems Madge is living in the 1990s-2000s—welll, some very close contemporary period at any rate—, which doesn’t fit with the early-1900s of the original story. I know it’s not the main focus, yet it kept bothering me no matter what: there’s no way Wendy could still be alive, or at least fit enough to bring up a teenager, and she would’ve had to give birth to Madge’s mother pretty late in life as well. And since there’s no hint that ‘maybe she stayed in Neverland for decades, which is why Jane was born so late,’ so it doesn’t add up. Also, Michael is still alive at the end? How long has it been? He must be over 100 or something by then.
None of the characters particularly interested me either. I liked the concept of Pan as tyrant, but I would’ve appreciate more background on this. And while Madge was described as someone who was strong enough to make things change, her actions throughout the story didn’t exactly paint her in that light; it was more about the other characters saying she was like that, or telling her what she had to do, and her reacting.
I found the ending a bit of an anticlimax. Things went down a bit too easily (I had expected more cunning, or more of a fight, so to speak?)… though props on the very last chapter for the people it shows, and for being in keeping with the grim underlying themes of Neverland (kids who ‘never grow up’, huh).
Conclusion: Worth a try, but definitely not as good as what I expected from a Peter Pan retelling.