Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
YA Fantasy/Magical Realism
Publication: October 2013
CW: Violence, sexual assault, child abuse, death, transphobia
Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair…
Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.
Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she’s always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.
With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.
I went into this book with very little knowledge, and very few expectations. All I knew was that it was a retelling of Peter Pan, and that it had quite good ratings and reviews. I was blown away.
Firstly, I loved Tinkerbell as the narrator. She’s curious and loyal, most especially to Tiger Lily. We learn about Neverland, its people, its history, and its magic through her eyes. I particularly liked the explanations about magic, and magical creatures (such as fairies and mermaids). I won’t say anything further, because I think it’s best experienced firsthand.
As the title suggests, the focus is on Tiger Lily, and her interactions with others. Tiger Lily was an interesting and complex character. Although it’s been a while since I read the original novel by J. M. Barrie, I felt the characterisations of Tiger Lily and Peter Pan were true to the source material, while also giving them both extra depth.
Peter Pan is still cocky, adventurous, sulky and stubborn; while Tiger Lily is still aloof, jealous, and strong-willed. Jodi Lynn Anderson manages to make both characters softer, and more sympathetic. Peter is thoughtful, and easily hurt despite his bravado. Tiger Lily, on the other hand, is both feared and reviled in her village for being different to the norm – she is strong, smart, angry, righteous, and brave. She faces an arranged marriage with a man she despises, and is looking for an escape.
The side characters are some of my favourite. I absolutely adore Tik Tok, who is Tiger Lily’s adoptive father. He is what is sometimes referred to as two-soul. He dresses as a woman, sometimes identifies as a woman and a man, and he performs a ceremonial role in society. He’s basically a shaman and healer for the tribe. He has such a positive, patient, and understanding nature, and I loved his relationship with Tiger Lily. His story is heartbreaking though, so prepare the tissues beforehand.
(I should probably say something about the representation of Native Americans at this point, but I don’t feel qualified to do so. I didn’t think there was anything that was overly offensive, but you would have to judge for yourself.)
The other character I love is Tiger Lily’s friend, Pine Sap. He’s also a bit of an outcast in the tribe, and doesn’t conform to traditional gender roles either. He doesn’t enjoy hunting or participating in traditionally masculine pastimes. He likes inventing, and thinking, and swimming.
I think the twists in the original were so clever. It was the story we all know, but somehow so much more. It also managed to cover a lot of themes, such as colonialism, proselytism, gender roles, belonging, friendship, love in its many forms, and duty vs. desire.
All in all, I would highly recommend this book to pretty much anyone who enjoys fantasy. It would also appeal to those who like Peter Pan, retellings, and character-driven novels.
Do you enjoy retellings? Have you read Tiger Lily? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!