Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Lost Boy by Christina Henry


Adaptations of traditional fairy tales or classic literature have really seen a surge in recent years within YA books especially, and what's particularly notable is how often the same source material has contemporary versions published around the same time – even though the publishing cycle means that the majority would've worked on this separately without knowing about the upcoming releases. Sometimes this is driven by a major movie release (see Beauty and the Beast), and at other times it seems more of a coincidence. I'm loving that Neverland is the latest hype as this is one of my all-time favourite fantasy worlds and now I get to explore it all over again.

In Lost Boy we're transported to Neverland by Jamie, the first boy Peter Pan ever brought to the island and his best friend. Through Jamie's eyes we rediscover iconic parts of the story such as the feud with the pirates, the strange allure of the mermaids, Peter's connection to Tinkerbell, and the origins of the Lost Boys not growing up. With the story set before the arrival of Wendy, John and Michael Darling, we learn that the core of the Lost Boys' existence is entertaining Peter through raids with the pirates and battling each other.

It all sounds like fun and games, but many of the boys get injured or die along the way. And as soon as they even develop a cough that could be serious, Peter forgets about them and turns his attention to someone else. After all, every time a boy dies, he'll just go to The Other Place to recruit substitutes for his games. With Peter being selfish and cruel to the Lost Boys, it's Jamie who is the parental heart of the misfit family of children. He cares about his friends and tries to keep them alive. But when Peter becomes jealous of the connection between some of the new arrivals and Jamie, it's his second in command who is suddenly in danger of Peter's wrath.

While the Disney adaptation imprinted on most people's memories glossed over the more cruel side to the character of Peter Pan in J.M. Barrie's source material, Christina Henry doesn't skip the darker side of Neverland in her version, which shows the origin stories of some of the most famous characters in literature. It was twisty, unexpected, and made such complete sense. And the way she spun the story, turning everything we thought we ever knew about Peter Pan, was as inspired as it was horrific.

While Peter was selfish and cruel, he was also incredibly charismatic and this complicated dynamic made for a fascinating character exploration. With Jamie by his side, the smarts and heart to balance Peter's cunning plans, it's no surprise that the Lost Boys conquered Neverland in such a way that the Pirates only ever got to live on the very edge of the fantastical island.

With its multi-layered characters and incredibly twisty plot that still keeps the origin story close at heart, this is the best YA adaptation of any classic tale I've read to date. While the ending was quite definitive, I would love to explore Christina Henry's Neverland more, so I do hope we'll get stories in the future from the early years of Peter and Jamie, both when it was just the two of them and once the twins have joined them on their rampages across the land, to show the slow regress into madness from Peter and the growing divide breaking Jamie and Peter apart. 

Lost Boy is the character of Peter Pan stripped down to its very essence of a selfish boy growing into a far more cruel creature because he doesn't have society showing him the differences between good and bad. Add to that the fantastical and mythical elements of the fairy tale like Neverland, and the fascinatingly complicated character of Jamie and you've got yourself a dark classic befitting the 21st century.

Pro tip: Avoid any and all reviews for Lost Boy on websites such as Goodreads and Amazon as the tagline and the cover of the US version spoils its greatest twist. And it's far more exciting to unravel the clues yourself until that devastating ending. Trust me.




Lost Boy is published by Titan Books and you can buy your copy from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.


Connect with the author:

Website: http://www.christinahenry.net

Twitter: @C_Henry_Author




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