End Date: April 28th
Author: Christina Henry
Pages: 304 (paperback)
Selected By: Elle Tea
“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 this 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. Peter lies.”
So, full disclosure, I’ve never cared much for Peter Pan. Not just him – his whole Neverland shtick bugs me, even from the time I was a Wee Tea. The idea of a world full of boys living out childhood fantasies never quite stuck with me – probably because my mum was a ultra-progressive hippie who told her daughter from the beginning that she could be anything she wanted to be, so the idea that I, as a little girl, would get stuck cleaning up that damnable tree house and doing the mending for all those boys was the vilest sort of proposal. I was only ever interested in Tiger Lily, initially because the version of the novel my brother and I had as kids depicted her as a sort of wild little girl, always on the move, with braids flying, a knife in her teeth, and a tomahawk in her hand; after reading the story, though, she remained the only character I liked, because she had straight-out refused to marry anyone other than the boy she liked best, she didn’t care for the delicate Wendy or the sneaky and vindictive Tinker Bell, and she fought the pirates just as well as all those stupid boys.
But thanks to Christina Henry, I have a newfound appreciation for Neverland.
And I would have grown up and my mama would have grown old but there would have been grandchildren for her to kiss and hug and hold so tight. There would have been a life, a boring, ordinary life to Peter but a full life, one that followed the natural order of things.
This isn’t Barrie’s Neverland, where boys stay boys forever, playing games, chasing pirates, flying about the island, and hanging out with mermaids. Henry depicts a more believable Neverland, one which, on the surface, would seem quite preferable to the life of a poor little (male) street urchin of Victorian London: there are no parents to scold you, no adults to kick you or beat you or tell you to get out of the way; there are no rules, no one to say you can’t or you shouldn’t or to tell you to stop, slow down, eat your greens, or go to bed. You could sell that idea to most children, even today, quite easily. But we, as adults, know better, don’t we? We know every cause has an effect. We know an object in motion stays in motion. We know that a world without rules eventually crumbles under the weight of its own chaos, and that a world without a leader is a farce – there is always someone somewhere pulling the strings, and that’s the person making the rules, even if those rules are, “There are no rules. Except… you know… these rules that I’m telling you that aren’t really rules, they’re just things I prefer and that you will do. Or else.”
It was not natural for boys to stay boys forever. We were supposed to grow up, and have boys of our own, and teach them how to be men.
Children, when left to their own devices, are monsters. Even if you have some yourself, you have to admit: you can’t just leave them to fend alone, because there’s no telling what they’ll do. They have no idea of the ramifications of bad choices – they simply don’t look far enough ahead for all of that. They do things just to do them, just to see what will happen, just to see if they can or if they can get away with it. Sometimes it’s relatively harmless: a dare to eat dirt that ends in a stomachache or mimicking everything a sibling, parent or friend says just to annoy. And sometimes it’s not: like when they sneak around and get a hold of a gun to play with or show off to their friends, or when an elder sibling is told to keep an eye on a younger one and then leaves them somewhere alone out of spite or embarrassment. All of these things have consequences, some much worse than others, but to kids… to kids, it’s all fun, it’s all fixable, none of it is permanent. Except they’re believing it’s so doesn’t make it so.
And thus, Henry’s Neverland comes to life. And it’s like Lord of the Flies… with pirates and a fairy.
Peter wanted me to stay a boy, but it was Peter, finally, who made me a man.
Peter brought James, or Jamie as he’s called, to the island long ago, so long ago that even Jamie’s forgotten how many years have passed. He’s been there the longest of all the Lost Boys, and he’s Peter’s lieutenant, in a sense – the second in command. Peter is, in short, a maniac: he wants a life of games and laughter and constant adventure, so those boys will have fun and they will revel in it, or there will be hell to pay. But it’s clear early in that Jamie is more level-headed and at some point has matured enough to realize that even fun has its price: you can’t fight pirates without bloodshed, and sometimes the ones bleeding out are ones about whom you care deeply; you can’t shove a bunch of boys together without a brawl breaking out, and if no one is there to deescalate the situation, someone is going to end with some bone being broken. Jamie is technically the first to fill the role of caretaker that will eventually be assigned to Wendy; he is the interceding voice of reason and sense to Peter’s neglectful, dismissive manipulations.
I should have chewed off my foot long ago, but I didn’t know that I was in a trap.
Of course, we all know that, no matter which version, the tale of Peter Pan and Captain Hook’s rivalry doesn’t end well for the pirate: in the novel, he’s thrown over the side of the Jolly Roger; in the 1953 Disney movie, he fades into the distance, pursued by the crocodile; and in both Hook and Peter Pan, the crocodile follows up the hand appetizer of yesteryear with the full-course meal. But Henry’s story of how their rivalry began throws an interesting, entertaining, heartbreaking twist over the whole classic, and it provides answers to many questions I had when I was a kid, such as: How did Hook even get to Neverland? Why is Hook so fixated on destroying Peter (because clearly their rivalry began before the hand was thrown to the crocodile… you wouldn’t just cut some random person’s hand off)? Why doesn’t he just steer the Jolly Roger back to England if he hates Neverland and Peter so much? In addition, it lends a sense of desperation and foreboding to the classic Peter Pan tale that I find much more interesting than the original novel by itself: think about it – by the time Peter shows up at the window of the Darling family home, he’s burned all of his bridges in Neverland, his former best buddy wants him dead, and he’s forced to put on this happy-go-lucky, no-care-in-the-world mask and throw his two most precious secrets (that he can fly and that he has a fairy) out first thing just to lure the new blood out into the night.
“It’s not such a wonderful thing, to be young,” I said. “It’s heartless, and selfish.”
I highly recommend Lost Boy. It’s a quick, fast-paced read full of characters you can’t help but love – and others you can’t help but loathe, and it will have you reexamining the dusty old classic from a new perspective. After you read it, I urge you to watch Peter Pan (2003); Jason Isaacs is still the quintessential Hook for me, and seeing it again with this tale fresh in my mind was like seeing it for the first time… only better.
Elle’s Favorite Character(s): Jamie, for being the best kind of leader – one who knows his own limitations and admits, especially to himself, when the faults are his own. Charlie, for being adorably pitiful. Del, for the courage to stand by his friends, even when the odds are against him. And lastly, Nod, for getting there eventually and doing the right things – and sometimes the wrong ones – for what turns out to be all the right reasons.
Elle Tea read the Amazon Kindle version of this selection.
I feel pretty good about this book. It was a very fast read and kept you on the edge of your seat the whole time. I was scared, angry, and stressed during the reading of this book. I would say that there was not much laughter. It was pretty stressful.
So free, when you have not worries or cares.
This other side of the telling from the prospective of who was to eventually become Captain Hook is a very believable telling. You can think back on watching the movie and see where this may have been who Peter really was on the inside. A dark…selfish…childish….horrible little boy with no conscience or ability to tell right from wrong. I don’t know what Peter needed but it was definitely not a mother or a friend. He may have needed some kind of commanding officer, but in the end they probably would have just used his powers for evil and then everyone could have been in a worse position than the present condition. He just wanted to have fun and it was all about him and to hell with anybody who would get in his way. Well, with the exception of Jamie. Jamie was special to him.
I did like Jamie but sometimes I had a hard time with him. I think it must have been Peter having some kind of magical hold over him that he was going to have to overcome. It was just sometimes he seemed too willing to forgive Peter for doing something foolish or completely terrible. It took him a really long time to get to a point so that he could see Peter for the person that he was.
I’m not sure that I’m going to go out of my way to read any more books by this author, but the story was well written and a good read. I would recommend this book to others if you like stories that tell the perspective from the villain. In which case….are they the villain?
BillMo’s Favorite Character(s): Charlie. I liked this little boy who was often compared to a duckling due to his soft yellow hair that made him look like a little yellow duck. He seemed very sweet and I felt terribly sorry for him. Charlie was the terrible recipient of a great injustice. He should not have been in Neverland with Peter and Jamie and the other boys. You’ll find out why if you choose to read this book. Just know he shouldn’t have been there.
BillMo read the Amazon Kindle version of this selection.
I have never been a connoisseur on the legend of Peter Pan. I never was fascinated by the story of a boy staying young forever. Of course, I grasped the premise. . . carefree lad, with a band of wildling boys that bedeviled Captain Hook. I never explored his motives and could care less. However, this novel intrigued me and made me actually choose sides.
“It is a fantastic lie,” Sal said, and her face was very earnest. “this isn’t a wonderful place for boys to play and have adventures and stay young for always. It’s a killing place, and we’re just soldiers in Peter’s war.”
Christina Henry did a magnificent job portraying Peter, his motives and the motives of those around him. In short, I think of Peter as a little serial killer, Charles Manson at the very least. From the start of the novel, he doesn’t inspire trust or confidence. In fact, he is the very definition of a narcissistic, egomaniac prone to temper tantrums. . . sound familiar to anyone (watch the news and any social media and you know where I’m going with that). What’s more, these “boys” are made empty promises about an island that they can never leave but for dying. I liken it to the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart by Brian David Mitchell and then made to participate in activities as if it were to their liking and benefit. Stockholm syndrome at its finest. No sir, what you are selling, I’m not buying.
This leads me to Jamie. I was immediately drawn to the character because he is the antithesis of Peter. Where Peter had no care for anyone but himself, Jamie cared for (emotionally and physically) for all the boys brought to the island. He shouldered the responsibility to make sure they adapted to the island, to handle the pirates and other natural predators on the island. In his taking responsibility for everyone, he felt the burden, and this caused him to age. I think that can be said for anyone growing into adulthood. We are often carefree until we begin to worry about things that are more adult than anything else.
Peter didn’t care about obstacles, even if they were shaped like people. They were only things to be jumped over, be knocked down. You didn’t care about them.
*****SPOILER ALERT**** >>> Peter sought boys who were unwanted or had poor social circumstances, or so we were to believe. Jamie was a child who was well loved by his mother and while the father was abusive, he and his mother had a plan and were actively working toward it. There did not appear to be empty promises coming from Jamie’s mother. However, Peter was so consumed with the idea of Jamie as a playmate, he took the one thing from Jamie that meant the world to him before manipulating him into believing that he would be in trouble for his mother’s death. Jamie was young and I do not blame him for being easily persuaded on the heels of finding his violently deceased mother. I think anyone suffering a trauma with someone prodding them to take action to keep themselves “safe” would have followed Peter without thinking too hard. However, this is quite the opposite of what Peter said he wanted. He indicated that he wanted boys who were abused, unwanted, and unloved. Since Jamie didn’t fit this mold, as well as Charlie, it would lead me to believe that Peter picked who he picked out of pure selfishness and with no regard for anyone other than himself. Much of the novel builds into this. You can see it coming, with the opening nightmare of Jamie, that his mother or someone close to him had been murdered and he was a witness of some sort. <<< *****END SPOILER*****
I wished I could promise him he wouldn’t be hurt. But you can’t make promises like that – not on the Island, not in the Other Place. Boys got hurt. They fell. They bloodied one another’s noses. They called one another cruel names. Sometimes they got eaten by crocodiles. Sometimes they got stabbed by pirates.
I wouldn’t lie to Charlie.
But I could promise not to leave him.
The fierce protectiveness of Jamie over the boys that Peter brought to the island was truly admirable. However, I could not see him turning out any other way than being ferocious when it came to those he loved or felt some sort of responsibility towards them. It was evident when he was a child in the “Other Place” and an incident with his father regarding his mother. Peter’s error was bringing more boys to the island. I think that if Jamie was there by himself with Peter, bygones would have been bygones and he would have been content to do as they did when he first arrived to the island. Unfortunately, as the end of the novel tells us, that was never meant to be because Peter needed those boys to feed his youthful immortality.
I thought, Peter will be sorry to have missed this, for Peter loved it when the boys were wild things. It tied them to him better, made them forget the Other Place, made them belong to Peter and the island.
What Peter didn’t count on was that Jamie would fall out of love with him, so to speak. Peter was the playmate, and Jamie the protector. Much like normal children, while the playmate is great, the respect is given to the protector, disciplinarian, and person who does care for you and that is no different with the boys that Peter garnered from the Other Place. While Peter was great fun and they saw him through Jamie’s eyes no matter whether he was in Jamie’s good graces or Jamie beginning to question his motives. While the boys acted unaware, I was pleasantly surprised when multiple sources let Jamie know that they were with him and understood him and respected him, not Peter. Of course, this would never do for someone such as Peter. I feel the extermination of so many boys during this novel had a two-fold reasoning: 1) eliminate the competition of love and loyalty for Jamie (backfired severely on Peter’s behalf, but eh, what can you say) and 2) fuel Peter’s need for the spilled blood.
I believe that the introduction of Charlie and Sal was only a catalyst for the inevitable confrontation between Peter and Jamie. Peter’s selfishness is apparent throughout the novel, but the single-minded desire to eliminate the competition for Jamie’s affection was akin to a stalker. A little eleven year old (physically anyway) crazed stalker. What does a stalker do but terrorize a person by threatening them; in Jamie’s case those he cared for and who took his attention away from Peter. Peter’s threat to do harm to Charlie and Sal were the final nails in the coffin of the relationship between Peter and Jamie. Jamie was already feed up with being the heavy. He was the one responsible for the chores, the care of the boys and general well being of the group. After over a century of the same games and trifles, who wouldn’t be feed up and annoyed?
Jamie, is self-aware enough to know that he isn’t innocent in all of this. He’s a willing accomplice in certain instances and he does wreak havoc of his on accord. However, that havoc was to take out the aggression he felt toward Peter and those who also helped diminish their numbers. Who wouldn’t be angry being around a juvenile delinquent such as Peter? Ok, so I excuse Jamie because I like him, but nonetheless, I feel he was driven to his behavior. A murdered mother, multitude of boys murdered over the years, dealing with the dangers of the island (The Many Eyed, crocodiles, bears, wolves, etc), and then dealing with the pirates.
I could drone on for a few more pages. However, I have some self-control. In short, great selection Elle! It was a quick read and I was all in, much like The Passage. Again, I never followed the lore of Peter Pan, but I’m firmly on the side of Captain Hook!
Esbe’s Favorite Character(s): Jamie, Charlie, Nod, and Del.
Lady Esbe read the Berkley paperback version of this selection.