Sometimes I think that maybe we are just stories. Like we may as well just be words on a page, because we’re only what we’ve done and what we are going to do. I know I’m only a faerie, a tiny speck in the world, but then I look at the things I’ve seen and done, and I become a long scrawly line of something important.
Jodi Lynn Anderson | Tiger Lily | p. 282
Tiger Lily is one of my favourite books – I decided this the first time I read it exactly one year ago, and when I reread it these past few days, nothing had changed about that. The story of Tiger Lily is based on those of Peter Pan and his adventures in Neverland. But it is so much more than just a re-imagination of this well-known fairytale. This retelling is dark and bittersweet and it broke my heart.
There are many aspects I loved about Tiger Lily. First of all, Tinker Bell as the main narrator of the story is – at least to me – absolutely ingenious. It gives the story credibility and supports the dark and twisted tenderness of the other characters. And these characters are put together so well! Each of them is pictured in a way so that the reader is enabled to passionately love or hate them – or both at the same time – fueling the plot and making it such a good book.
♦ Careful – Spoilers ahead! ♦
So let me tell you about the specific moments in Tiger Lily that broke my heart. The depiction of Tik Tok, Tiger Lily’s father and shaman of the tribe, starts off as that of an intelligent, goodhearted man who loves to dress himself in intricately sewn dresses and to do his hair. He is loved and respected by the members of the tribe, because how he dresses and feels is a part of himself, which is therefore never questioned by anyone. But with the influence of Philipp, a stranded ‘Englander’ who corrupts the tribe with his understanding of what is normal, what is the right religion and the right way to live, it all changes. When Philipp cuts off Tik Tok’s long hair, he also mutilates his soul. The influence of the western world on the native tribe takes its toll when Tik Tok takes his own life. To me, this was indeed heart breaking, because it still happens in our ‘modern’ world: people who are being shamed for the way they dress, the way they love, the way they are. Why are some people so terrified by those who break the gender roles that still exist in our western society? Making them behave according to a socially accepted norm puts people into socially constructed cages, breaking them.
When I browsed through some of the reviews for this book on GoodReads, I came across several readers stating the opinion that the love story in Tiger Lily was barely existing and that there should have been more of it. My first though was: well, no. Let me put it this way: As Tinker Bell announces in the beginning,
This is a love story, but not like any you’ve heard. The boy and the girl are far from innocent. Dear lives are lost. And good doesn’t win. (p. 3)
This story shows different kinds of love, because love isn’t an entity that is always the same for everyone. Whether it is the love between Tiger Lily and Tik Tok, or the one Reginald Smee feels for the wild girl – these are only two of the many different kinds of love that this novel explores. The love between Peter and Tiger Lily is based on their respect of each other, of them seeing themselves as having to be strong and fearless around each other. They see the darkness that lies at the bottom of their hearts. The opposite is the case with the love between Peter and Wendy. Wendy shows Peter that she believes in him, no matter what he does. She applauds his strength while Tiger Lily tries to be as strong as Peter, or even stronger, in order to be enough for him. So this is why I could see why Peter fell for her, although Wendy really annoyed me most of the time, to be honest. It broke my heart to see Tiger Lily clinging to her understanding of love between her and Peter, believing he would never leave her, when he already chose another girl, another life for himself.
But again, this book is so much more than a love story! It unites strong characters, struggling with themselves and others, being exposed to good influences as well as bad ones, and oh, all those moments that send chills down your spine. The bond between me and this book is a little bit like the bond between Peter and Tiger Lily after he is off to England: It never really leaves, even if the story is read and one continues with another one.
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Title: Tiger Lily
Press: HarperTeen (HarperCollins Publishers)
Year of publication: 2012