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As soon as I saw the synopsis for Tiger Lily, I knew two things: that I had to read it, and that I would love it. I was thrilled beyond belief when I received an ARC, and I could hardly wait to start it, with good reason; I fell hard, fast, and deeply in love within the first few pages of Jodi Lynn Anderson's breath-taking beautiful and haunting story. I am a HUGE fan of all things Peter Pan - ranging from the Disney cartoon to the Broadway-inspired musical with Mary Martin in the title role, to the 2003 version, to the recent twist Sci-Fi put on this timeless tale. (I even watched Peter Pan and the Pirates in elementary school!) I've always found JM Barrie's story of a boy who didn't want to grow up to be whimsical, mysterious, and heart-warming, and Tiger Lily was a lovely addition to the original story.
First, I want to talk about Jodi's gorgeous writing style. It is just as memorable as the characters are, because even now, several days after I finished Tiger Lily, it is still haunting me. From the first sentence: "She stands on the cliffs near the old crumbling, stone house," I was hooked on the way the writing just flowed so naturally. In Anderson's words, you could sense the wildness of Tiger Lily and the other Indians, the feral yet vulnerable nature of Peter and the Lost Boys, the untamed beauty of Neverland, and the air of menace to Hook, Smee, and the other pirates. Every single character was stitched lovingly and genuinely into the pages; I cheered for them, wept for them, laughed at them, or raged at their actions. Tiger Lily opened my eyes and my heart, and reminded me of a simpler time, when I was younger, when magic was the easiest thing in the world to believe in.
I expected to love Tiger Lily; what I didn't expect was to fall IN love with Anderson's Peter Pan and Tiger Lily. Long before the orphaned Indian, taken in by her tribe's shaman as his daughter met Peter, she knew of him and his Lost Boys. Everyone had heard stories of their violence, but through Tiger Lily's eyes - seen through narrator Tinkerbell's point of view - we, like Tiger Lily, saw the Lost Boys for what they really were: rough, lonely, orphans, abandoned, searching, loving. Something in my heart melted, broke, and then was knitted back together as Tiger Lily made a place for herself with them, and with Peter. I had a permanent smile on my face as I watched Peter and Tiger Lily's first, tentative interactions, and that smile became a fierce joy as I watched them fall in love.
Jodi Lynn Anderson takes the story we THINK we know and adds her own twists, her own turns. Several of the characters are different from their Disney versions - becoming instead more sinister. Instead of being its own world, Neverland is a remote island few ever come to, where the various Indian tribes shy away from Englishers in fear of catching their "aging disease." I loved the additions, and the changes - it all made Tiger Lily feel more real. Tiger Lily's father, shaman Tik-Tok was a delightful character, and I am so glad he was included, as well as her friends, loyal Pine Sap and gentle Moon Eye. Of course, some parts DID remain the same - Captain Hook is still a fearsome pirate, there are still mermaids and that wily crocodile, and Wendy Darling still arrives in Neverland. But every time I thought I knew what would happen next, I was wrong - and I loved that.
Tiger Lily is a magical, winsome story, and even though I thought I knew how it would end, I was still in tears at the emotional, gripping conclusion. The only point of view we see is Tinkerbell's, but that idea was genius on Jodi Lynn Anderson's part, for in the fairy's eyes, everything takes on a new light, becomes more meaningful. Peter and Tiger Lily's relationship - the childlike innocence to it, the deeper love - brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion, as did her devotion to Tik-Tok and Tinkerbell's love for Peter Pan. Everything about Anderson's story struck a nerve with me, and when I closed Tiger Lily, I did so with a respect for the title characters - fierce, loyal, and courageous - and an ache in my heart.