I can never resist books that are in any way connected to Peter Pan, I’m just fascinated by Neverland and what it represents. So when I was offered the chance to review Wendy Darling, I couldn’t say yes fast enough!
Wendy Darling is a re-telling of Peter Pan told from 16 year old Wendy’s perspective. John is Mr Darling’s favourite child and Wendy feels desperate to be noticed by her father, she tries so hard to see the star that John can see so easily but she struggles and the disappointment she feels from her father is palpable.
Wendy spends as much time as she can visiting the local bookshop. She loves to read, but even more than that she loves to visit the bookseller’s son Booth. The two are growing closer but their romance seems to be doomed from the start as society dictates that Booth is just not an appropriate suitor so they meet in secret.
One night Mr and Mrs Darling go out for the evening and something very strange happens at the house. It is really quite sinister and leaves the children feeling very shaken, until Peter Pan appears at the window and takes them all off on an adventure.
I have to be honest and say I found some of the things that happened in Neverland a little long-winded and slow, I was initially more captivated by Wendy’s romance with Booth and was longing to see more of that, I didn’t want to be taken away from that storyline. Having said that, where the book keeps you hooked is with this much more overtly sinister version of Neverland. It was always possible to see the darkness in JM Barrie’s original story but it’s much more extreme in Oakes’ re-telling. Oakes takes the nightmarish elements to fantastic extremes and danger is everywhere, especially for Wendy. It’s about how nothing is as it seems, and the idealism of a perfect world is never going to be as you’d thought.
Peter Pan has always felt a little creepy to me but in this version he is sociopathic. He appears very loving and kind one minute and the next his personality becomes very menacing, and actually often downright evil. I loved that Wendy was older in this re-telling as it gives a whole new dynamic to her and Peter’s relationship. There is an undeniable sexual chemistry from the beginning of the book, Wendy is drawn to him and cannot stop herself from staring at him and wanting to be closer to him. Peter ultimately uses this against her though and there are a couple of scenes later in the book that are very shocking and disturbing. The contrast between the rather innocent kissing with Booth and the way that Peter Pan treats Wendy really highlights the way that Neverland represents the desires of a teenage girl and her inability to fully comprehend how dangerous the world can be for someone still so naive and innocent.
Wendy Darling is ultimately the story of an awakening, it’s about Wendy discovering her power as a young woman and how she can fight back against the things that imprison her. It’s about her discovering her longing to be a mother; the way Wendy takes to nurturing the lost boys is beautiful, she seems to have found her place with them and they adoringly look up to her wanting her to be their mother. I did very much appreciate how empowered Wendy is in this re-telling; she’s been taken from a character who is almost always portrayed as weak just because she’s just a girl to a young woman who can stand her ground, and who will speak up when she feels she needs to. It was fascinating to see the character of Wendy in this way.
I do have a real bugbear with this book though and that is that even when a book is a part of a series I strongly feel that each book in the series should have some sort of ending. I know they have to lead into the next book so you will want to buy it but this novel just stops and ends with the title of the next book. I have to be honest and say that this really irritated me and I’m not sure that I would read the next one because I would always be wondering if I was ever going to get an ending. I love open endings, I enjoy being left with lots to think about but to just stop dead at the end of a scene and announce the next book is actually infuriating.
There are aspects of this novel that are fascinating and compelling, but there are times when it falls a little flat and the lack of an ending is something I can’t ignore so I rate this novel 7 out of 10. I still highly recommend it, especially to people who are fascinated by Peter Pan, it’s a brilliant look at his character and it takes him to really sinister levels that always seem to be underlying his character in the original story.
I received this book from SparkPress in exchange for an honest review.
Wendy Darling is out now and available from Amazon.