To me, TIGER LILY is proving to be hard to pin down and review. Over the summer, it was so much easier to feature an excerpt and focus on mermaids for Splash. There is nothing soft nor easy about the novel. Readers who expect otherwise haven't properly read the lines that open the very first chapter (See the opening hook above. There's a reason I chose that passage rather than the one from the prologue to share with you now). I didn't know much about TIGER LILY when picking the book up to read. I knew it took place in Neverland, and with a title like TIGER LILY, I was expecting her to the book's focal character. I never really read the book's summary or looked at anyone's reviews because I didn't want to be spoiled. I knew people were saying the book was awesome, but that's it. While I wouldn't say it's the best book I read this year (I had an easy enough time putting it down and picking up again), its message is poignant and sticks with me even now, more than a month after reading the novel.
TIGER LILY surprised me in so many ways. First of all, the book isn't told from Tiger Lily's point of view. I know, I was shocked, too. I never expected to be reading through the eyes of Tinker Bell. In an odd way, it worked. The perspective was fresh and unique, remaining in the third-person while also being uniquely first-person in unexpected ways. Sometimes, I believe Tink turned into my favorite character in the novel because it was so easy to feel for her. In other ways, seeing things through her eyes showcased the ways the small fairy isn't human and added an extra layer to the story. Jodi Lynn Anderson excelled at character developing when putting TIGER LILY together. So much reminds me of the J. M. Barrie classic, yet there are new elements introduced as well. Anderson fleshes out Tiger Lily, whom I always wished to see more of, and introduces a darker side to our beloved Peter Pan. I loved the idea of a silent narrator in Tink and enjoyed seeing the way Neverland is both magical and deadly, innocent yet sinister.
It's hard to talk about the novel and the storyline without giving away key plot points better left to be unraveled by the intended reader each time the book is picked up anew. If you're as big a fan of Peter Pan as I am, you'll find aspects you love and others that raise your eyes. You may love the alterations or hate them depending on what aspects of the original tale (or retooled movies, musicals, etc.) you love/hate the most/least. For me, the journey was interesting, and I love how Anderson humanized her characters. For example, as I mentioned in my Mermaid Spotting post earlier this summer, did you know that the legendary Peter Pan can't swim? Or has a freckle? These are the flourishes that add that extra touch of relatability to a beloved character. There are also darker traits to everyone lying beneath the surface, lurking, waiting to tarnish perfection.
TIGER LILY is not a Happily Ever After tale, but rather becomes a story of heartwrenching ache and despair. The opening chapter warns of this, but it's nothing compared to the reality of experiencing all that occurs in the later half of the book. Again, Anderson succeeds at developing characters and having them go through the heartbreak that so many of us experience in life. She writes about topics frequently ignored in literature yet experienced often in life. This book felt more "true to life" than so many books that end with whipped cream and a cherry on top. Its flavor is more bittersweet and leaves one reflecting on the message upon conclusion, which also makes it perfect for Book Club Discussions!