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Staff Picks: “Tiger Lily” by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Perspective is everything. History is written by the victors. Eyewitness accounts of crimes are notoriously unreliable because two people who saw the exact same event may have radically different accounts. There’s no reason to believe two characters in a novel might tell the story in very different ways.

In Jodi Lynn Anderson’s newest novel, Tiger Lily, she recounts the familiar childhood tale of Peter Pan, but with a twist. The story is told from Tinkerbell’s perspective, and she begins long before Peter and the lost boys ever met Wendy Darling. Tink gives us the scoop on Peter Pan’s first love, Tiger Lily.

The adopted daughter of Tik Tok, the shaman of her tribe, Tiger Lily is still an outcast despite her high social position. She is even more ostracized when she saves a shipwrecked man and her tribe fears she has caught the aging disease. Tiger Lily is lonely, until she meets the most feared creature in the forest—Pan, and his band of lost boys.

Tinkerbell as narrator is a gimmick, to be sure. Using her first person perspective allows the story to be wider, and we see scenes from Hook and his pirates, Peter and the Lost Boys, as well as Tiger Lily and her village. Tink is also able to offer us her opinion on those involved—she’s certainly not an unbiased narrator. While it took me 100 pages to come to terms with Tink the observer as the voice of the story, in the end, I thought it worked.

Anderson renders the familiar characters in a much more nuanced way than their Disney counterparts; Tiger Lily is not just an Indian princess; Hook is a sad man with a broken dream and an obsession with Peter Pan; Smee isn’t just a side-kick, but a twisted villain in his own right. My absolute favorite character was Tik Tok, whose quiet wisdom and celebration of gender non-conformity gives him a unique perspective.

In a sea of insta-love and happily-ever-afters, Tiger Lily stands out because we know it’s not going to end well for Peter Pan and Tiger Lily. Once Wendy bursts onto the scene, readers have no doubt that Peter will chose to grow up. But like most first loves, Peter and Tiger Lily leave lasting  impressions on one another’s hearts, and certainly will do the same for readers.

- Molly, YA

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