Ginger Nuts of Horror
I felt tired and old and untrusting rather than darkly delighted. It felt like being trapped in an awful relationship with a narcissist, with no way out.
I have to start out this review with: I wanted to like this more than I did. However, the issue I have with the book isn't going to be one that most readers have. YMMV.
Lost Boy is a dark retelling of the Peter Pan story from Captain Hook's perspective. Jamie isn't based on the historical captain James Cook (which I was half-expecting), but on an ordinary boy. A mostly ordinary boy, who nevertheless is the kind of kid who can keep up with Peter for more years than one likes to think about. If the implications are true, Jamie may go back all the way to 1750--or perhaps just to the mid-1800s. It's hard to tell.
Peter is a bad boy. A truly bad boy, as it turns out. Reprehensible doesn't cover the half of it.
Jamie, on the other hand, is his one true friend, both to Peter and to the rest of the lost boys, and if he has a few anger issues, they're certainly nothing unreasonable, all things considered. Or at least that's what he says--he's telling the story, isn't he? Of course he's put a little bit of a shine on himself...
On the one hand, the craft behind this book is well done. Solid characters, including one of the more eerily accurate-feeling portrayals of a narcissistic psychopath that you'll run into this year. The style is solid and readable, very readable. The dark aspects of the book are also well done--there's a goodly amount of creative gore, leaving none of the characters unscathed; in addition to which, the horrific implications of the story are calculated out nicely, with logic taking us down some slippery slopes indeed.
However, and here's my problem, the premise is the entirety of the plot. The entire book is a windup to the reveal of just how bad Peter is--again, this is pretty bad--and then it ends.
That was it.
In addition, the ending left me with the sense that yes, the conflict between Hook and Peter is justified--but when I tried to tie the original play/novel with Lost Boy, the logic doesn't fit. Nothing is mentioned about Peter's curious shadow (or if it was, I missed it). Never addressed is the fact that Peter will bring Wendy, a hated girl, to Neverland (and promises to visit her repeatedly after she leaves--in the novel coming back to visit her daughter and so on). There's no mention of Tiger Lily & company (which is understandable, if a bit weak). Hook never went to Eaton. There's only one fairy left at the end of the book (Tinkerbell). And the crocodile never eats Jamie's hand, nor does it eat a clock.
In the end, it was a difficult book to read. Peter does something terrible, Jamie struggles to clean up after it, Peter does something else terrible...lather, rinse, repeat. The ending didn't resolve the conflict, only set it in stone. And the details that didn't mesh up with Peter Pan felt like indications that Jamie had lied about the story, whole cloth--and I don't think they were meant to.
Some people will most likely think this book is an excellent adventure, a great dark spin of a retelling, and in many ways it is. I saw someone describe it as a fantasy Lord of the Flies, and they're not wrong. But when it was over I felt tired and old and untrusting rather than darkly delighted. It felt like being trapped in an awful relationship with a narcissist, with no way out.
There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth. This is how it happened. How I went from being Peter Pan's first--and favorite--lost boy to his greatest enemy.