Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

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"Let me tell you something straight off. This is a love story, but not like any you've heard. The boy and girl are far from innocent. Dear lives are lost. And good doesn't win. In some places, there is something ultimately good about endings. In Neverland, that is not the case. . ."

—Tinker Bell

Tiger Lily, the heartbreaking retelling of Peter Pan, still haunts me. It really does. This book was so refreshingly beautiful, I would recommend it to everyone—even those who aren’t typically drawn to young adult fiction. There’s a wildness to this retelling, as if we’re let in on this addictive secret. . . . Tinker Bell is the narrator, a fairy who never speaks or makes a ripple in the lives of the characters she follows. She takes “fly on the wall” to a new level, and readers get front-row seats to a monumental love story, but one that is so different from the “happy ending” love stories we all grew up hearing.

Tiger Lily is a wild, free girl—so different from the Wendy we grew up knowing. She has dirty hair and dirty feet, she’s strong, independent, fearless. She doesn’t shy away, she isn’t vulnerable. The character of Wendy is everything Tiger Lily is not: the essence of femininity that makes lost boys blush, motherly, fragile, doll-like. The story is told from Tiger Lily’s perspective—through Tink’s voice—as she watches the love of her life, Peter, fall in love with Wendy, her opposite in every way.

At first, I was scared to let Tiger Lily romp around on my heart. I didn’t want her to be obliterated from the story of Peter Pan; it wasn’t about Wendy and Peter, and I don’t think I’ll ever erase her from his story. Like I said, she haunts me; her wild love haunts me. No, Tiger Lily is not fragile, but her love for Peter is, and Jodi Lynn Anderson brilliantly strings us along until we’re ready to dream or break. Even beyond the love between Tiger Lily and Peter, the story is full of well-rounded characters: lonely lost boys, a sweet medicine man, chilling, sociopathic pirates. You even grow to love Tink, who views herself as nothing more than a messenger, a small insect to swat away.

The whole ending is perfect, so if you’re afraid to invest in their love story, don’t be. It is a gorgeous unraveling, and Peter is one of the most complex characters I’ve read about in a while. There isn’t as much dialogue as I anticipated, but Jodi is a master of showing rather than telling. Peter, with all of his boyish charm, is flawed and forgetful, dark and conflicted; and yet, he is innocent, fearful in his heart of hearts, and honest. He celebrates his freedom, all while existing in a tortured state where he is trapped by the fear of being alone. He is so unbelievably lonely, and yet he draws you in by his endearing, adventure-seeking heart.

Peter is manic at times; he thinks it’s cowardly to grow old and you want to believe him. He thinks being comfortable is terrible because “old people lock out all the scary, wild things. It’s like they don’t exist.”

Tink understands the deepest part of Peter: “As you may have guessed already, Peter had a soul that was always telling itself lies. When he was frightened, his soul told itself, ‘I’m not frightened.’” The love between Tiger Lily and Peter is undying, yet reserved in some strange way. Jodi expresses just how human their love is: "Human hearts are elastic. They have room for all sorts of passions, and they can break and heal and love again and again.”

This song was not (that I know of) inspired by Tiger Lily, but boy does it remind me of her story. . . .