Book Review: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
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 always enjoy retellings that focus on secondary characters. I confess I haven’t read Peter Pan but I had seen the Disney movie when I was a child and Tiger Lily was a favorite of mine. So I was curious to see what Jodi Lynn Anderson had done with the Indian princess’s story in her book Tiger Lily. On a whole, I was underwhelmed. The book was slow and uneventful. Nothing much happened. There was no tension or excitement in Tiger Lily and although I enjoyed seeing Neverland fleshed out and a new side to the familiar characters of Peter Pan and Tiger Lily, the rest of it felt very flat.
What I Liked
Tik Tok. Full stop. He’s probably the best character in the whole book. I think this is the first transgendered character I’ve ever seen in young adult fiction before. I loved how the village people just accepted Tik Tok as he was made and then it broke my heart when Phillip and the other missionaries turned their opinion against Tik Tok, after everything the medicine man had done for them. I had a little sniffle when they chopped off his hair.
Pine Sap and Moon Eye. In fact, there were a lot of awesome secondary characters in this book. It’s great to see characters that aren’t perfect physically but are still determined and steadfast. Pine Sap might have a spinal deformity but that only seems to make him an old soul. It was especially poignant when he was dealing with his abusive mother. “I don’t know what else to do but be patient with her.” As if his mother was a whining child and he the adult. I love that. I also love that delicate, shy little Moon Eye got her revenge in the end.
The story is told from the point of view of Tinkerbell, the fairy. It’s very odd but gusty move to make the narrator not one of the main characters. Tinkerbell herself professes to be unimportant and unnoticed by most of the other characters. This makes the times that characters do notice her especially powerful and those times when nothing she does changes the course of events even sadder.
It was awesome to see Neverland fleshed out and presented as an actual place. It’s a magical but logical location. I love reading all the details about the fairies and other Neverland creatures as well as the tribes and pirates.
What I Didn’t Like
The plot. Tiger Lily had all the makings of something awesome; great setting, fantastic characters, but we’re let down with a plot that never really does anything. There could have been adventure and excitement but instead we just have Tiger Lily and Peter being awkward with each other. The book seemed to drag and it’s not even that big of a book.
We really don’t learn a lot about Tiger Lily. While Tinkerbell can sort of see into the minds of other people, we don’t get much explanation for why Tiger Lily acts and feels the ways she does. We never learn where she came from besides Tik Tok finding her in the forest. Yes, we’re told Tiger Lily was bullied and that she’s not like other children but we really don’t have a lot of insight into her. The same goes for Peter. He has the strangest moods but we never get any deeper into him. We’re never given the chance to understand. We’re just left with this little boy who wants his mommy and may be more than a little insane.
Tiger Lily has some of the most diverse and powerful characters I’ve ever seen. It has a readymade setting for all sorts of mayhem and thrills. But we’re left with a flat plot and very little action. It was interesting to see Peter and Tiger Lily kind of grownup a little, into teens in this book. There are no thimble kisses here, folks. Peter smooches Tiger Lily and Wendy on the cheeks and lips several times. This is a less innocent Neverland. The more sexual aspects may upset some people and I’m hearing a few complaints about the narration. It was a little jarring to have Tinkerbell suddenly speaking up in first person in the middle of an otherwise third person narration. In all, I liked Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson but I just couldn’t bring myself to love it.