Ten years ago, Peter Pan left Neverland to grow up, leaving behind his adolescent dreams of boyhood and resigning himself to life as Wendy Darling. Growing up, however, has only made him realize how inescapable his identity as a man is.
But when he returns to Neverland, everything has changed: the Lost Boys have become men, and the war games they once played are now real and deadly. Even more shocking is the attraction Peter never knew he could feel for his old rival, Captain Hook—and the realization that he no longer knows which of them is the real villain.
There will be spoilers in this review.
When I first heard about Peter Darling by Austin Chant, I knew that I would have to read it. Firstly – I’ve been looking for LGBT+ retellings of classic literature for a while, because I really thought I’d like it. (Hint: I did!) Secondly, I’m named after Wendy in Peter Pan – it was my mum’s favourite book when she was young, to the extent where she wanted my middle names to be Moira Angela like Wendy Darling! (Thank goodness, my dad intervened at that stage.) Obviously, because I was named after Wendy, I had to hate the original. I hoped that this retelling would actually get me to like the story. (Another hint: it did!)
My standard warning for when reviewing trans narratives: I am cis. I have not yet been able to find a review for Peter Darling by a trans reviewer, but I will link it here as soon as I do.
I adored the entire premise of Peter Darling. After ten years in the real world as Wendy Darling, Peter returns to Neverland to reclaim his title as King. However, the Lost Boys have found a new leader, and Hook is no longer the evil captain of the Jolly Roger that he was ten years ago. I thought that this darker re-imagining of Neverland was brilliant. Mermaids and fairies abound, though they’re not at all nice (and thankfully, the racist depictions of Tiger Lily her tribe are left out).
First off: the romance between Peter and Hook was really good. When I first started it, I wasn’t sure what I would think, mainly because I had the Disney cartoon Hook stuck in my head. This Hook is complicated, tragic, and very sexy. I loved everything that Chant did with him as a character – he still remained roguish Hook, despite his new roundedness as a character. Peter too was extremely interesting. What passed for childish innocence in the original now comes across as cruel and self-obsessed. However, I couldn’t help but like Peter, again as many did with the original.
At times I wasn’t quite sure what was going on. Maybe because this was such a short book (my e-copy was only 140 pages), and maybe because the material is so fantastical. For example, I interpreted Neverland as being an imaginary place for those who attempted suicide. I don’t know if anyone else got this idea – please let me know if I’m barking up the wrong tree, here! Also, when Hook and Peter return from Neverland to the real world, I got the impression that Peter’s body had transitioned, but Hook’s hook had not (here it is re-told as a prosthetic limb). Again, maybe I just read it wrong, but I found it a little confusing at that point.
However, I would definitely recommend this to anyone who loved the original Peter Pan, anyone who is interested in trying out LGBT+ retellings, and anyone who is interested in a short, gorgeous romance with complicated pirates and sprinklings of fairy dust.
There are trigger warnings for period-typical transphobia and homophobia.
NB: I am using Amazon Affiliates – using the link will help me financially
NB2: My choice for re-telling with LGBT+ MC for Diversity Bingo 2017