Let me tell you something straight off. This is a love story, but not like any you have ever 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.
I wasn’t expecting much from this novel. I’m not a huge fan of Peter Pan for various reasons, the main one being that I dislike all of the characters. Peter, Wendy, Tinker Bell… I don’t like any of them in most of the adaptations I have come across (Once Upon a Time aside). The only character I have liked is Captain Hook, and that’s mostly because he’s either hilariously ridiculous in the movies, or bloody gorgeous in the Once Upon a Time TV show. But Tiger Lily made me see the characters in a whole new light, and I have to say that this is one of the best adaptations of any story that I have ever read.
I was expecting Tiger Lily to be told from the point of view of, well, Tiger Lily. Since she is the title character and all. I was very shocked to discover that it was Tinker Bell who was narrating this story instead. The way Anderson did this was very clever, since in this adaptation, fairies are silent creatures that humans cannot hear, and barely even acknowledge. So Tinker Bell is basically a spectator in Tiger Lily’s life, unable to interfere with the actual events that take place. This causes much frustration for both Tinker Bell and the reader, being unable to help characters that they love when they’re in a crisis.
One of my favourite aspects of the book is Tiger Lily’s relationship with Tinker Bell, which I believe I fangirled about all over the internet. This is the epitome of unrequited love for me, and it broke my heart. Tinker Bell feels such a connection to Tiger Lily, that she moves away from her fairy peers, and into Tiger Lily’s village. From then on, she follows Tiger Lily wherever she goes, and she absolutely adores her. She cries over various circumstances that Tiger Lily is put through, and she wishes she could do more for her. She admires several of Tiger Lily’s traits, and boasts and shouts (in her quiet fairy way) about how brilliant Tiger Lily really is. Tinker Bell is one of the few characters that really understands Tiger Lily, and it is heartbreaking because Tink is unable to tell her that she is always there for her.
You think you know that someone sees you one way, and barely at all, and then you realize that they see you in another. That was the night that I realized Tiger Lily had seen – really seen – me all along.
It turns out that Tiger Lily does see Tinker Bell, but because of the way that Tiger Lily is, she doesn’t voice her feelings for Tink, or really acknowledge her openly at all. It’s all so closed in and painful.
“What you did was very brave,” Aunt Sticky Feet said, her words clipped but not unkind, “but men don’t want women who are brave. They want women who make them feel like men.”“I don’t care about that,” Tiger Lily said quietly.
Despite being mistreated and seen as rather savage, Tinker Bell and the reader see that Tiger Lily actually has a big heart, perhaps the biggest out of almost anybody in her village. She just can’t always show it, because she keeps these things close.
As the novel progresses, we see Tiger Lily grow up and experience several different life changing events. She is forced into a relationship that she doesn’t want, with an abusive arsehole, and because she is a girl, she doesn’t get a say in the matter. This is part of the reason she turns to Peter Pan in the first place.
Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .
So you know how I’m always complaining about how guys in YA declare that they own their girlfriends/love interests? “You are mine.” “You belong with me.” “My girl.” All that stuff usually drives me up the wall, and I end up mentally shredding the book to pieces. But, after reading Tiger Lily, the above quote makes me weep.
Tiger Lily and Peter’s relationship absolutely ruined me. I’m sure you’re all aware of the story of Peter Pan, and how his “love interest” (quote marks because he’s a child in most adaptations) is Wendy, so I don’t feel like I’m spoiling you with this: Tiger Lily and Peter don’t end up together. Duh. But their story is one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever read. I don’t ever want to experience pain like that over a book again, because I don’t think I will be able to handle it.
Tiger Lily runs to Peter because she’s not ready to grow up and get married. Peter and his Lost Boys provide the perfect escape for her, even if Peter is a selfish prat who doesn’t know how to express himself properly. Their relationship is exactly the kind of thing that I look for in a love story. Both characters help save and improve each other. Tiger Lily helps Peter so express himself and to quit being such a child (although he has a long way to go), and Peter helps Tiger Lily to escape her life in her village, which has since become a cage.
Peter and Tiger Lily made me cry my heart out. I cried so hard that they gave me a nosebleed, and the only other things to have done that are Spartacus and Supernatural. That’s how many feelings this book evoked in me.
Because of this relationship, which I can only describe as a hurricane without sounding too ridiculous, we start to see a side of Tinker Bell that I knew (and hated) from my childish. But what is different this time is that we know the reasons behind Tink’s actions. We know why she’s such a bitch towards Wendy, why she hated her, why she’s always so bloody grumpy. And it totally works in this book. Tinker Bell is doing it all out of her love for Tiger Lily.
Tatum talked about Code Name Verity and how the relationship between the two main female characters in that book is rather ambiguous when it comes to love and friendship. I haven’t yet read Code Name Verity, but I imagine that the relationship in that book is a lot like Tinker Bell and Tiger Lily’s relationship in this book. Lines are blurred, and it’s not hard to see how what Tinker Bell feels for Tiger Lily is so much more than avid friendship.
With all this going on, you’d have thought that there wouldn’t be room for much more. You would have been wrong. In addition to Tiger Lily’s conflict with those around her, and her relationship with Peter Pan, and how she wishes to escape, we also see a broken relationship between Tiger Lily and her father, we see Neverland go through several seasons, and we see a new religion introduced to the island by the British.
Anderson doesn’t waste the secondary characters in this novel either. There’s a whole subplot about Captain Hook and Smee, and how they’re hunting the Lost Boys. But this doesn’t detract from the fact that this book is about Tiger Lily. This is her story, and these are all things that are happening on her island. In her home.
I am astounded by how much Anderson managed to pack into a short 300-page novel. She manages to cover love and conflict, feminism and mistreatment of women, friendship, loss, death, and so much more. Tiger Lily has to be one of the best books that I have ever read. It’s a beautiful story, and it will stay with me forever. I will never be able to give it the praise that it truly deserves, because I’m not that good at words. However, I wish you luck with getting away from my book pushing.