Title: Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie

Notes: Book 1/50

With a New Year’s Resolution to become a better writer and to read 50 books again (third time’s the charm, right? Or is this the fourth time I’ve tried this?) it seems the time is ripe to start writing in the blog again. So, without further ado, let’s get to it.

Review: Everyone knows the story of Peter Pan, Neverland, and the Lost Boys. Peter Pan never wants to grow up, and Wendy, Michael, and John fly away with him to the land of mermaids and pirates and Captain Hook. Disney made it this cute fairy tale, but the real book is so much more.

First of all, maybe kids were made of sterner stuff when this was written, but this is not the watered-down Disney classic. When the lost boys get too old, Peter “thins them out.” And that’s the only reference to that ominous fact! What do you mean he “thins them out?” like….Peter kills the lost boys? Why do they age and he doesn’t? TELL ME, JM BARRIE! TELL. ME.

The story of Peter Pan is so much deeper, so much more than I expected. It is the story of childhood innocence and ruthlessness. How children crave growing up (most of them) but have this paralyzing fear of turning into something else. So they want to stop time, run away, and just live as children forever because at least they know who they are as children. Peter Pan and the Lost Boys kill pirates (seriously, they kill the pirates), save Tiger Lily from drowning, and face off against the Native Americans. But growing up? That’s really scary.

Peter Pan, as a character, is insufferable. He has the unbearable cockiness, selfishness, and single-mindedness that I’m sure is common in children. I made me want to punch him in the face. He constantly forgets who Wendy is, even though he taught her how to fly and brought her to Neverland. He thinks it’s hilarious to let the boys (John and Michael) fly to exhaustion because when they fall asleep, they drop like a stone and he has to save them at the very last moment. Everything is a game to him – nothing matters. Nothing that is, except a mother. Even  though Peter never wants to grow up, he wants a mother more than anything.

And that’s why he convinces Wendy to come to Neverland. He wants her to be his mother and tell him stories and tuck him in at night. They have this weirdly grown up relationship of a pretend mother and son, but it also has a strange undercurrent of sexual tension. She makes him take his medicine (it’s just water that she doles out with a dropper), tells stories, holds him at night when he has nightmares, but fights with Tinkerbelle over who gets to be the woman in Peter’s life. 

Eventually, (like MONTHS later) it’s time to go home and face growing up. She convinces all of the boys but Peter to come home with her and grow up. But, again (weird) Peter comes back every year if he remembers for take Wendy away for Spring Cleaning. And when Wendy gets too old, her daughter goes, and then her granddaughter goes, and on and on and on. I would never let my daughter fly away with Peter Pan. He’s obviously crazy, the pirates will actually kill you, and Tinkerbelle is a murderous bitch. Are you kidding me, Wendy?!

Bottom Line: Growing up is complicated and scary, but time marches on. There is something magical about being a child and believing in something so much that it becomes real, down to the lagoons filled with mermaids. But like everything, nothing is perfect. The mermaids try and drown you. The lagoon becomes a dangerous place at night. And the island is full of creatures that can kill you. On the flip side, growing up isn’t all bad. Sure, you lose the ability to fly and the expansive imagination of a child, but….you get bills? A job? And…wait, can I just take the flying part?