Friday, May 9, 2014

Tiger Lily Review

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Published:  July 3, 2012

Synopsis from Goodreads: 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
My rating: 4/5
Before I get started with this review, I'd like to just take a moment to admire the cover. I don't know about other editions, but the US paperback is all black with a watercolor-esque tiger lily on it. It actually took me until I was halfway through the book to realize that the flower on the cover was actually an image of a girl in an orange dress. (In the cover picture above, more of her torso and legs are showing than on my copy.) It wasn't blatantly obvious until I flipped the book over while reading to hold my page for a minute. The girl's arm and knees can't be seen from the front cover itself, only when you open the book completely. Instead, the part of her torso that's partially shown looks like the center of the flower. After finishing the book, I thought the double image suited Tiger Lily herself - a girl who no one saw or loved as she truly was only as they wanted her to be. I wanted to see a flower on the cover because that's what a tiger lily is; only when I looked harder did I see the girl.

Let me tell you something straight off. This is a love story, but not like any you've ever heard. The boy and the girl are far from innocent. Dear lives are lost. And good doesn't always win. In some places, there is something ultimately good about endings. In Neverland, that is not the case.
- Chapter 1, page 3

This is the opening paragraph to the first chapter of Tiger Lily and it cannot be more perfect. It adequately sets the tone for a story that is beautiful but sad, full of love yet full of loneliness and fear. It's about circles, connections, choices, beginnings, and endings. Jodi Lynn Anderson's writing is gorgeous filled with descriptions carrying the proper amounts of beauty and melancholy. She was able to take a well-known and well-loved story and explore the dark recesses that make the Peter Pan the classic tale of adventure, innocence, fun, and tragedy.

The story is told through Tinker Bell's point of view. Anderson explains that faeries have ways of communicating with each other but to humans they are mute. However, a faerie is empathic and can sense the thoughts and emotions of the humans around her. By choosing Tinker Bell as the narrator of her story, Anderson is able to harness the omniscience of third person narration while keeping the intimacy of writing in first person. Although Tink remains close to our protagonists, Tiger Lily and Peter, for most of the story, she has the freedom to stray off to spy on the pirates when needed.

Tink chooses to remain with Tiger Lily rather then the other faeries. This is one of the many choices that the characters in this book make that separate them from their peers and the expectations placed upon them. Tiger Lily is the adoptive daughter of the Sky Eater tribe's shaman, Tik Tok. She is more like the boys than the girls in her tribe. She has a wild spirit and on top of that she is believed to be guarded by the crows. Because of this, the other tribes folk remain wary of her. When Tiger Lily eventually meets and falls in love with Peter - who along with the lost boys are feared by the Sky Eaters - she is separated even further because she must carry her love for him as a secret she knows will never be accepted and will force her to be alone.

Peter himself is a character of extreme loneliness. He is every bit of the careless, adventurous boy J.M. Barrie created but he is burdened by leading the lost boys and protecting them from the truths that he himself refuses to believe. He fears that they'll discover the true danger of the pirates and that he's not the leader they need him to be.  He is a boy who is broken and feels everything with his whole being but tries to lie about it to cover up the truths that can shatter his illusion. He craves a companion who he can depend on and feel safe with but who will not question the lies that he's wrapped himself up in.

What makes Tiger Lily even more poignant aside from the beautiful prose and heart wrenching characters is that, as readers who are familiar with the classic tale, from the beginning we know how it will end. We know that Tiger Lily and Peter cannot be together though throughout the book we hope that they'll overcome everything and find a way. It's not a story about happy endings though it is a story about endings themselves. It questions the idea of who is good or bad and what makes an ending a happy one. Is Phillip is a villain for preaching what he believed in? Is Hook evil for being angry at coming so close to achieving his life goal only to realize he failed? Can a person find a happy ending with a broken heart? Tiger Lily doesn't offer the answers to any of these questions but rather offers the hard truths that allow us to decide for ourselves.

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