Tiger Lily (Goodreads | Amazon) is a slow moving character driven book. A lot of the story focuses on the relationship between Tiger Lily and Peter Pan, yet somehow that does not detract from the experience. As someone who generally cannot cope with slow-moving romantic books, Tiger Lily stands out as something entirely different.
Told from the perspective of Tinkerbell, the tiny little fairy who follows Tiger Lily everywhere, this is a different take on Peter Pan. This book takes place in the almost-real-world, a version of Neverland than can be reached by normal ship and aging is considered a disease. Rather than focus on Wendy and the Lost Boys, this book focuses on Tiger Lily--found in the forest, an outcast among her own people and a tomboy in a world where she's expected to become a woman. I enjoyed that this book dealt with, subtly, the sliding scale between femininity and masculinity. Tiger Lily is fully a girl, but has boyish tendencies like hunting, that make her feel like an oddity. Her adoptive father Tik Tok, is a man who dresses like a woman. The village accepts him, especially since he is their shaman, but struggle with Tiger Lily's otherness.
Still, the longer I was around her, the more I could see the colors of her mind and the recesses of her heart. There was a beast in there. But there was also a girl who was afraid of being a beast, and who wondered if other people had beasts in their hearts too. There was strength, and there was also just the determination to look strong. She guarded herself like a secret.Peter Pan is the Sky Eaters arch-nemesis, lurking in the forest, more legend and fear than fact. When Tiger Lily first meets him, he drags her into the woods against her will before she escapes. But she sees Peter for what he really is, just a boy. A brave, foolish, often rash boy who will make your heart ache. Both are oddballs, outcasts. Peter has created his own society, but he chafes at the expectations and struggles with knowing himself Their relationship is more of a competition than anything you'd traditionally call a love story. But for Tiger Lily, it works because Peter accepts her as she is and doesn't expect her to become feminine or womanly, but wants her just as Tiger Lily.
Strangely, Wendy is almost a villain in this story. Not because she is a bad guy, but because she is the antithesis of Tiger Lily. She's all dainty and feminine, needing Peter rather than needing to beat Peter. From the perspective of Tiger Lily, Wendy is the enemy, a reminder of everything she's not, especially when Peter shifts his attention to her.
This book has a plot, the familiar Peter versus Captain Hook storyline twisted to involve Tiger Lily and a much darker version of Smee. But I would not say this book is plot driven. It's more internal, the story of Tiger Lily coming to terms with who she is, how she fits into the world and facing her personal demons. The writing is unpretentious but poetic, capturing the solemness of Tiger Lily perfectly. This book is unusual and unexpected, but wholly satisfying. It is the story of deeply flawed people, co-existing, colliding and knowing themselves better as a result.