Firstly, a huge thank you to Titan Books for sending me a copy of Wendy, Darling in exchange for an honest review!
Publisher: Titan Books
Publication Date: 01/06/2021
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Fantasy Retelling | Young Adult
CW: abuse, mental health institutions
For those that lived there, Neverland was a children’s paradise. No rules, no adults, only endless adventure and enchanted forests – all led by the charismatic boy who would never grow old.GoodReads
But Wendy Darling grew up. She left Neverland and became a woman, a mother, a patient, and a survivor. Because Neverland isn’t as perfect as she remembers. There’s darkness at the heart of the island, and now Peter Pan has returned to claim a new Wendy for his lost boys…
As I’m sure a lot of you have noticed by now, I do love a retelling of a classic story, whether that be a fairytale or mythology or anything else. Growing up, the only versions of Peter Pan I was aware of were the Disney film and the film Hook (which is brilliant if you haven’t watched it!). It wasn’t until university that I began to become more aware of how dark the story of Peter Pan is and after reading Lost Boy by Christina Henry, I have been eager for more dark retellings featuring the boy who wouldn’t grow up and Wendy, Darling certainly delivered!
I love the fact that this novel focuses on Wendy and how the adventure in Neverland impacted her and her brothers in such different ways. It is such a refreshing and unique take on the story and one that I have never given much, if any, thought to when I think about the story. I loved how Wise not only weaved in real London history into their lives which brought the characters to life and made them feel very much real but also how this time would have impacted them just as much as Neverland. We got a fascinating contrast between Wendy’s experience of Neverland as a child and again as an adult.
Wise has an incredible talent for taking characters that we all know and love and giving them an extra depth, completely changing the way we initially perceived them. Each character is incredibly complex and, apart from the very obvious villains in St. Bernadette’s, most of the characters didn’t neatly fit into the stereotypical ‘hero’ and ‘villain’ boxes which I loved to see. However, not only does Wise bring back familiar characters but also creates new ones who we immediately take to our hearts like Mary and Timothy.
The pacing of the novel was also incredibly well done, not only did we get to see both Wendy and Jane’s perspective of what was happening and of Peter himself, but we also got to see a lot of Wendy’s past too. In brief flashbacks we see Wendy as a child in Neverland as she desperately tries to remember the secret that Peter confided in her which makes her uneasy when she tries to recall it as an adult; we also see Wendy as a young woman, refusing to give up her memories of Neverland like her brothers which lands her in St. Bernadettes. The way these perspectives are sprinkled throughout the novel really emphasise the danger that Jane is in and how terrifying the idea of a boy who won’t grow up really is.
Overall, this is a wonderful book which is impossible to put down! A must read for fans of Peter Pan or lovers of gothic, feminist, fairytales.