I'm an awesome 24 y/o reader and writer of YA fantasy/historical fantasy. I mainly write about awesome ladies and the people who love them. I work at a library and I'm a contributing reviewer to Bibliodaze.
When I initially picked up this book, I worried about the portrayal of Wendy Darling. I thought, "Oh Lord, if this is setting it up to be a whole 'the tomboy girl is better than the feminine silly girl' thing, I'm going to be upset."
Clearly I should have been more concerned about the portrayal of Natives.
I can see that the book was well intentioned in how it wanted to turn the racist source material into something not racist and more nuanced. However, I don't think enough research was put into the various Native tribes that exist around this country and the history surrounding Native portrayals in media and society, and therefore it fell into other traps.
Take, for instance, the naming system in Neverland. The children are pretty much named for whatever the person naming them happens to see at the moment; Tiger Lily was named because she was found under a flower of the same name, Sticky Feet was named because she accidentally walked through tar once, etc. They're also outlandish names, which furthers the unfortunate stereotype.
There's also the fact that once an English man moves into the island and begins preaching about his God and the ways of English life, the Natives are hesitant at first but then are very easy to sway over into his ideals. I found this troubling because it made the Natives seem silly and not all that bright.
Then we get to the one character that hurt me the most, Tik Tok, Tiger Lily's mother. Though she was born a man, Tik Tok identifies as a woman and wears dresses and womanly colours. Once the English man moves into the village, however, he puts pressure on Tik Tok to identify as a man and wear men's clothing, and forcibly cuts Tik Tok's long hair.
At the end of this, Tik Tok commits suicide rather than go on. I'm not entirely sure what the point of this was except to have some drama, but I'm very tired of seeing queer/genderqueer/trans* characters having sordid lives or trauma based on their identity and then killing themselves over it. I realize this is the story of a lot of those people, but why can't we have some happy trans* characters in books for once?
As for the rest of the book, well, I did actually enjoy Tiger Lily as a character. There wasn't as much of a rivalry between her and Wendy as I thought there would be, which I did appreciate. Frankly I was never that caught up in Peter and Tiger Lily's relationship in this book anyway; I guess I could see how they might work, but nothing about it really had me rooting for them.
I did really love the writing, though, and I liked how Tinker Bell was the narrator. It was a good choice of narrative and I liked her relationship with Tiger Lily.
Overall, though, I can see the book was well intentioned. Intentions don't make up for the troubling aspects of it, however, that even I as a white woman caught on to. I might look into Anderson's next book due to the strength of her technical writing.