10 September 2012

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.

From the "New York Times" bestselling author of "Peaches" comes a magical and bewitching story of the romance between a fearless heroine and the boy who wouldn't grow up.
"Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair..." This line really conveys the tone of the story well, because in that one sentence, we as readers are acknowledging that the romance will not be everlasting, and will inevitably end in heartbreak.  When I first discovered Tiger Lily, it was in Barnes & Noble and I'd admired its gorgeous cover.  I read the summary and felt a thrill of excitement at the thought of a Peter Pan inspired story, but alongside that excitement was a tinge of hesitation.  I have always loved the story of Peter Pan and I didn't want that love for the original story to become tainted by whatever Tiger Lily had in store.  After hearing all the cries of "it was the most heartbreaking story I've read this year" and "I needed tissues for it," I was starting to think that maybe I shouldn't get myself involved with that sort of thing.  Tiger Lily didn't seem right for me.  At first.

My hesitations over preserving the sanctity of Peter Pan's original story in my mind were wiped away by Jodi Lynn Anderson's easy, in depth writing and deeply realized world.   Her characters were well defined, and even peripheral characters were brought to life with Anderson's to-the-point writing without stealing the spotlight.  Tiger Lily ended up surpassing my expectations.

There are two things that stand out the most to me whenever I think about Tiger Lily:

One is the fantastic writing.  Jodi Lynn Anderson writes as if she'd read Bird and Bird and took this piece of advice from Anne Lamott to heart:
Outside...you don't get to sit next to the reader and explain little things you left out, or fill in details that would have made the action more interesting or believable.  The material has got to work on its own, and the dream must be vivid and continuous.
Anderson doesn't overcompensate.  She uses details instead of mindless description to bring out characters and setting, creating a clipped but effective pace that allows the hauntingly heartbreaking quality of the story to shine through.

Two is the narration itself: brilliant.  I got such a thrill to see something so original done with narration!  Instead of switching between Tiger Lily and Tink's points of view, it was told solely in Tink's POV, but since Tink (being a faerie) can read minds, we get a constant stream of inner thoughts from Tiger Lily.  While that might be a bit of a turn off for some readers, who might find that they're distanced from Tiger Lily with Tink mediating, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I could see how some readers might find it boring, but I found the dual narration a clever and refreshing break from the cookie cutter switching of POVs.

Jodi Lynn Anderson has a fantastic imagination.  The world of Neverland was richly detailed, and for once, fully set in a time and place.  None of the "second star to the right and straight on till morning".  By planting her world solidly in time and space, it made Neverland seem more tangible than ever, like we really could accidentally wash up on its shores if we got turned around at sea.  She also didn't bog down the story with unnecessary details.  I felt there was just enough to keep the plot on track and just a little bit more to create a three dimensional world.

My informative followers were right: it was a heartbreaking story.  Despite being told from the get go that this was not a happy story and there was no happy ending, I still felt that twinge of hope towards the middle that maybe, just maybe, things would be alright.  That surge of hope only made it worse during the fall after the climax, when everything is settling horribly into place and there is no going back.  Jodi Lynn Anderson has a skill that grasps the tiny details that sends heartstrings twanging. 

Tiger Lily was a thrilling, soul-capturing read that really brought a new dimension to the world of Peter Pan.  

Let me tell you something straight off.  This is a love story, but not like any you've heard.  The boy and the 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. (p. 3)
This was in the time when spice was no longer king, when ships were crowding the ports with loads of cotton instead of cinnamon.  People sat in parlors and talked about the unknowns.  And there were so many.  Where would expansion end?  What was left to be invented?  If there had been one symbol to define the minds and hearts of London at that time, it would have been a question mark. (p. 59)
Book Info

  • pages - hardcover, 292
  • published - July 2012
  • publisher - HarperTeen
  • genre - fantasy
  • received via - library
  • rating - 5/5
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