Sunday, May 5, 2013

To think there was ever a time when I wondered if there would be enough interest in a Peter Pan-related work for me to find readership. This week I ran across two recent books that feature the idea of Wendy as the storyteller who created Neverland and its denizens, books which handle the subject very differently after that point is made.

In "Hook and Jill," Andrea Jones does an excellent job of conveying the encroaching dread of a Neverland where everyone grows older except Peter Pan  and where Peter finds this unacceptable. How Wendy might come to change her allegiance from him to Captain Hook is reasonable and thought-provoking. Part coming-of-age story, part retelling of a classic story, "Hook and Jill" also creates some believable futures for lost boys. Jones is a good writer with strong plotting, and I envy her skill at combat scenes.

Unfortunately, I have to conclude that I am not the audience for this book. Innocent blonde Wendy on the cusp of womanhood, winning over the fascinating, all-powerful Captain essentially by being his ideal of Beauty, leaving both without the realistic character development I would have liked to see and robbing the original of its sense of melancholy. Her willing and rapid corruption at his hand, while set up nicely through her story of Red-Handed Jill, didn't seem entirely in character with Wendy as I've always understood her. The sexually available Indian maidens and their counterparts with European names made me uncomfortable. And why did Tinker Bell need to change her name to Jewel?

If I were fifteen years old, I imagine this book would have been a dream come true. As it is, I found little to identify with and I was ultimately uncomfortable with the handling.

The sequel to "Hook and Jill," Other Oceans: Book Two of the Hook & Jill Saga," may as well be part of a series unrelated to Peter Pan (something I've noticed with other Pan-inspired series). I liked the back stories on Cecco and Smee a good deal, but there was a strong hint of internalized misogyny with the character of Liza that left a bitter taste in my mouth. I was reminded of Laurell K. Hamilton's Meredith Gentry books more than once--this was more a straight romance than the first, and while not my usual genre of reading material, I enjoyed it more than the other, even if I found it less than believable that the characters all seemed endlessly enticing to each other.

All in all, I preferred the YA version of the theme, "Forever in Neverland" by Heather Killough-Walden. The premise of Wendy being "cured" of her stories/memories of Neverland through psychiatry made me twitchy, as I imagine (ha) it would any writer, but I believe that was intentional, so I don't count it as a complaint. This book is told in lyrical prose and updates the story more gracefully than most other versions I've seen. The reason given for Peter Pan to be in our world and aging makes sense, as well as his reason for re-entering the Darling children's lives. A couple of things did bother me--on the Kindle version, at least, Tinker Bell is spelled as one word (the sort of thing I can't help but notice now), and Skull Rock is a location from the Disney film, not the original book (guess how I come to know that?). Not only do I worry about copyright with that sort of thing, I feel like a follow-up to a book should be based on the original, rather than drawing from a film that was a significant departure from it. (My own opinion, and I admit it.) However, I always felt that if anyone turned out to be a prat, it would be Disney's John, and it looks as though Killough-Walden might agree.

All of these books are part of planned series. As far as "Hook and Jill," I don't know if I can do this again, but I may out of anxiety/protectiveness towards the characters. My primary concern over Killough-Walden's continuation of the series is that "Forever in Neverland" has such a lovely stand-alone ending that I hate to see it diluted. I'll have to trust that she will continue the style and feeling.

Reviewer Categories:
"Hook and Jill": Yer doing it wrong!, I wanted to do that
"Forever in Neverland": I wanted to to do that

I'm sure it's impossible to write about Neverland without sharing ideas with other writers, but oh, it can hurt!

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