I grew up enjoying classic tales. Whether they were Grimm's or Disney, Hans Christian Anderson or Aesop, I've always enjoyed the structure of these stories. Fantastical events, animals brought to life, personification of objects and plants, and magical creatures. Each usually had a lesson or moral at the end... something to remember, something of value.
Recently, I discovered Lost Boy by Christina Henry. This is one of my favorite styles to read... an alternative creation myth. Its foundation is based on the original story of Peter Pan, but aside from that reference, this story stands as remarkably different. Leave behind your preconceived childhood notions. This story is told from Hook's raw reality and in his voice, going back to the very beginning. The book is infused with the details of a potential history that was either unrecognized or purposefully ignored in the original.
Ultimately, this style of writing could be considered Fan Fiction, with twists that remove us from the original in such a way that it becomes unique. Ms. Henry discovered a story that was neglected deep inside the fairy tale, and gave me the opportunity to stand just a little askew of normal to discover possibilities I hadn't imagined.
The book was spectacularly written, and it flowed effortlessly. The author offered a new relationship between Hook and Peter Pan that challenged everything I thought I knew. It was tight, exciting, and unpredictable. The descriptions of the Neverland Island were extremely vivid. Although there was a map in the beginning of the book, I had no use for it once I began reading. It wasn't difficult to drift into that world and find myself standing by, a mere wisp of a witness, as I took in the landscape. The descriptions of trees, swamps, fields, and mountains were perfect, in that I was able to imagine them from my own experience, rather than become hindered by the author's belabored definitions of these spaces. She gave me just enough to place myself, and then she allowed me to fill in the blanks on my own.
It takes real talent to flip everything we thought we knew about a place and the characters that live there, and convince us that we'd been mislead all these years. That's exactly what Ms. Henry does with this story. The dialogue between the characters is fresh, spontaneous, and sincere. The conversations were poignant, and laced with levels of innuendo I never thought to ascribe to them. These are people, not characters, and it was refreshing to read them that way. Their motivations and defenses seemed far more three-dimensional, with nuances that reminded me to never negate the other side of the story.
This book allowed me to question and re-evaluate everything I thought I knew about Neverland, it's rules for life, the people who live there, and the origins of it's magic. It captivated me, and held me firmly on the edge of my seat, just as the original had as a child. However, understanding this story through the eyes of an adult lends a clarity to the rivalry between Hook and Peter that I had not considered before. That was an interesting surprise.
This is a brutal story - both emotionally and physically - certainly not for the faint of heart, and definitely not written for children. It has made me reconsider what it means to grow up, and how impactful our expectations of children can be, long into adulthood.
I highly recommend this book. It was a fast read, I finished it in a total of about twelve hours, over four nights. Ms. Henry has written other fairy tale revisions, and I am eager to read them, too.
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