by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12924326-tiger-lily
Recommended to me by: a few book bloggers and one of my 10th-grade English students, Lorilei, from 2013-2014
Recommended for: Teens and lost souls
Read from November 12 to 18, 2014 — I own a copy
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson was an interesting retelling of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. (Click here to find my review of Peter Pan)
On the one hand, I love how she sewed Tiger Lily's story so tightly into the original tale: how she includes Tiger Lily's capture, and the Neverbird nest rescue, and the pirate's attack on the burrow. And I love how she told some of the back story to certain parts of the source material: how the Neverbird nest got to the rock, why the crocodile ticks, and what happens to Peter in the end.
But on the other hand, to weave a new, complete story into an already-complete story sometimes means that one cannot fit it all in comfortably, and there were a number of parts that felt rushed and/or unexplained. The Englander subplot and its effects on Tik Tok was a lot to take in, and made it difficult to stay focused on Tiger Lily, Tink, Wendy, and Peter. Then there was the new subplot of Smee that creeped the crap out me, and felt a bit forced and underdeveloped - I could never really get a clear grasp on what motivated Smee's obsession with Tiger Lily. And these new developments with Smee were so counterintuitive and uncharacteristic of the Smee I already knew (from all of the versions: Barrie, Disney, and the movie, Hook), that it was too much change for me to wrap my brain around. It ran so much against my own mental grain that I couldn't believe that it could be possible. And Anderson made a few other changes, too, that disturbed my understanding of the Neverland world so much as to feel impossible. Readers, especially those already enamored with a source text, will never be able to deviate too far away from what they love. So when Anderson changed Smee, or changed Hook's motivation for wanting to capture Peter, or changed the Lost Boys' ability to fly, it was just overwhelmingly unbelievable to the point where my brain fought back against the very suggestion of these non-linear changes.
Also, the ending, while poignant, was so lackluster. They all settled in the end. It kills the very hope that Barrie was so desperately trying to create! In our own real lives, we always have to settle; we always have to give up our childhood fantasies in order to accept our adulthood realities. In Peter Pan, Barrie was trying to create a place where even adults could hold fast to those long-forgotten childhood dreams forever, an escape that we, adults, could hope and dream for, even when we were shackled down to our unfortunate monotony. But Anderson breaks this hope! Tiger Lily, Peter, Tink, they all settle in the end, thereby killing the escape. Neverland is supposed to be about staying innocent forever, and this story is about losing innocence: that was difficult for me to accept.
I did love Anderson's ultimate lesson, though: Love, in all its many forms, marks us - equivalent to rings in a tree trunk or waterlines on a tide marker. Anderson writes, "Peter walked across her heart, and left his footprints there" (290), which is a perfect analogy that also nods to the scene in the movie version when Tink leaves little ink-stained footprints on Hook's map. And I love the ultimate moral: we must learn to find those people who love us exactly as we are (288). Tiger Lily had that kind of love from Tik Tok, Pine Sap, and Tink, but she didn't recognize it as enough because Peter's footprints were all over her heart. Sometimes we have to learn to accept the love we deserve (a nod to The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and the love that others are willing to give. Tik Tok, Pine Sap, and Tink loved Tiger Lily unconditionally, without fear or question. And I liked that lesson a lot, especially in a YA book. Teens need to hear that - accept the love that accepts you for who you are and doesn't ask anything else from you. So many teens are constantly trying to fit themselves into the box they think others want for them; eventually, they will find, years later, that the box caused such deformation that they lost their own unique shape along the way. This book tries to show the reader this lesson. And for this lesson, this was a very powerful book, indeed.
Overall, forgiving a few missteps or wobbles along the way, Anderson did a wonderful job of creating an understory for Tiger Lily that floats, for the most part, just below the surface of Barrie's canonical work. And while there were parts that felt superfluous or forced, I appreciate that Anderson went for it all the way, creating an entire world outside of just Peter's. I highly recommend this book, especially to teens who struggle with finding and owning their own identity. Tiger Lily's example of looking for a love that fit her own mold is a powerful lesson that more teens need to read.