Review: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

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March 18, 2013 by Heidi

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn AndersonTitle: Tiger Lily [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson [Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: Stand alone novel.
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling
Published: July 3rd, 2012 by HarperCollins Children’s Books
Format: Hardcover; 292 pages.
Source: Borrowed from my local library.

“You love me,” she said. “That’s enough.  We love each other.”

“Yes. Yes, that’s true.” He smiled. “We are a love story.”

Tink will warn you at the beginning that Tiger Lily is a love story–she says that the boy and girl aren’t innocent, and lives are lost, and that good doesn’t win, but I have to admit–I disagree with our little narrator.  Yes, Jodi Lynn Andreson’s Tiger Lily is a love story, but it’s one where the boy and the girl are more innocent than they know, where bad doesn’t win, though yes, I’m afraid dear lives are lost.  Tiger Lily is a story of love in so many ways beyond first love; it is a love of family, and love of the land, love of a people, and love of one’s self.

You have probably guessed by now that Tiger Lily is a retelling of J. M. Barrie’s children’s classic, Peter Pan.  Told through the eyes of the fairy Tinker Bell, Tiger Lily follows the life of the wild adopted daughter of the Sky Eater’s Medicine Man, Tik Tok.  Both father and daughter spend their pages bristling against conformity, and drowning in the inevitable as it catches up with them.  When Tiger Lily disobeys her tribe’s ruling to let a castaway Englander die, they sentence her to marriage and domesticity, a bond that will tie her to one of the more frightening men of the Sky Eater’s tribe.  Tiger Lily spends her last months of freedom cavorting in the Forbidden areas of Neverland with the Lost Boys, and handing her heart to Peter Pan before more Englanders arrive to change everything.

I’ve never been a lover of Peter Pan, in fact, I actively dislike both him and his story.  Surprisingly, this worked well for my enjoyment of Tiger Lily, and also provided me with a varying viewpoint as to the inevitable outcome.  It’s easy not to be broken over a relationship you never felt was an OTP to begin with.  My sole issue with Tiger Lily was the narration through Tinker Bell.  It’s a very awkward structure that has a character telling the story through first person, but because she is empathetic  her observations often slip making you feel as an observer in a third person narrative.  This structure was jarring for me for the first 100 pages or so, until finally I was able to slip into the feel of it and truly enjoy.  Tink’s perspective becomes almost beautiful, sometimes feeling as if it is a dance riddled with staccato notes and heartbreaking turns of phrase.

Tiger Lily as a character captured my heart completely, right from Jodi Lynn Anderson’s dedication: For the girls with messy hair and thirsty hearts.  Believed by her people to be cursed, or watched by the gods, she bears their disdain with nonchalance, but it is clear her inability to fit weighs heavily on her heart.  When the story begins, the only love she really understands is that of a daughter for her father, and learning to love in other ways threatens to collapse her heart completely–there doesn’t seem to be enough room in Tiger Lily’s heart to fit so much.  She isn’t very good at being a traditional girl, she’s always thrashing through the wilderness and providing a challenge for Peter, hoping that if he sees her as his equal he will love her forever.

Peter is a lover of wild things, and though he comes to feel very deeply for Tiger Lily before the inevitable Wendy descends upon them, I was never really convinced of his feelings for her.  Perhaps they were what one another needed at the time, but they weren’t in truth what one another needed in the long run.  Tiger Lily needed to be loved unconditionally for who she was, whereas Peter Pan needed to be a leader, praised, and held above all others by the woman in his life. Their relationship isn’t a power struggle, it’s more like watching two sponges soak up everything they can get from the other, and then ask wide eyed for more than they can possibly give.

Indeed, so much of Tiger Lily focuses on who you are willing to put your faith in.  Whether it be Phillip the Englander, Peter Pan, Tik Tok, Tiger Lily, Captain Hook, or God, each character in Tinker Bell’s story (including herself) will place their faith in another, and look to them for love and leadership.  Many of these leaders will fail.

So few books out there really understand love, or try to tell the truth of it to young adults: that first love doesn’t often last forever, but that it never really goes away.  That every time you fall in love it will be completely different, but that doesn’t make it less real.  Each player in this novel is both hero and villain to another, making it beautifully complex for such a short read.  Jodi Lynn Anderson has taken a children’s fantasy story and shown it’s surprising depth and darkness.  She has masterfully given a throw-away character a voice, a story, and a beautiful, hard life.  It is a story that is as bold as it is bittersweet, which is the only true way Tiger Lily’s tale could have been told–in the end, it is perfect.

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more:  I picked up Peaches a while back when it was a Kindle deal, and after being surprised by Jodi Lynn Anderson’s insight on youth and love, I really want to give it a shot.

Recommended for:  Readers who never had much love for Peter Pan, enjoy an unconventional perspective, and can appreciate a story that is true to life rather than a HEA.

Real life repercussions of reading this book:  This was our YAckers read for the month!  Make sure to keep an eye out for our YAck (I can promise you pics of our Richard Armitage casting).

Get a second opinion:
Angieville – “I choked back tears more than once and, as in the original, the ending is fragile and aching and right.”
Ivy Book Bindings – “While I was expecting a cute romance, I instead found a deep, provocative, and thoughtful tale.”
Books Take You Places – “The story was riveting. It was heartbreaking, tender, harrowing, compelling, breathtaking and all around gorgeous.”
Tripping Over Books – “Tiger Lily haunted me. And there’s so much more to it than just Tiger Lily and Peter.”
Paranormal Indulgence – “How can something so well-loved cause so much pain? Nevertheless, I love the story anyway.”

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30 comments »

  1. Reynje says:

    I’m a little hesitant to admit this.. but I’ve never read Peter Pan, and only vaguely remember the film adaptations. But I’ve heard so many fantastic things about this book – and I’m intrigued by the idea of a story with more darkness and depth – definitely my kind of book! I think I’ll definitely try to track this one down.

    • Heidi says:

      I mostly know Peter Pan through film adaptations too, which I suppose means I shouldn’t be saying how much I don’t like it when I haven’t read the source material, but considering what I went through attempting to read Alice In Wonderland a few years ago I’d rather not. I hope you do track this one down, Reynje! It’s so beautiful and evocative.

  2. Molly @ wrapped up in books says:

    So glad you liked this one! I think it’s a love story in the truest sense! It was one of my 2012 faves :)

    • Heidi says:

      I completely agree, Molly! It IS a love story, if not exactly a romance. Totally went on my favorites for 2013 shelf. :)

  3. I definitely agree! I was surprised at how much depth was put into this retelling and the best part about it was that it WAS a retelling, but so original at the same time.
    I love how you put it that Tiger Lily needed to be loved for who she was, exactly as she was, and she fell in love with Peter who really was not the ideal mate. He was a great friend and someone who shared interests, but he could never love her as she needed to be love because he constantly needed to be strong, be a leader, be built up and Tiger Lily was not going to lower herself for him.
    Beautiful review, as always :)

    • Heidi says:

      YES! I love that she chose characters that weren’t really looked at in the original work, and gave them this whole story while really remaining pretty faithful to the original work. I love Tiger Lily for not compromising herself for Peter, and am happy that in the end she found what she was looking for.

      Thanks, Brittany. :)

  4. This is a beautiful review, Heidi! I have hesitated reading this one for some reason, but you make it sound amazing.

    So few books out there really understand love, or try to tell the truth of it to young adults: that first love doesn’t often last forever, but that it never really goes away. What a powerful and true statement! You’re so right, most YA books do not promote that truth, but it was a hard lesson I learned when I was a young adult. I would also say, “thank goodness first love doesn’t always last,” because I would have missed out big if it had! Still, I find it hard to actually read a book with that message in it, which is probably why I love YA so much.

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks, Lauren! I completely agree, I think most of us are a lot better off by NOT sticking with our first loves–I know I am. 😛

      This one is really bittersweet though because of that reality, but that’s also part of what makes it so beautiful. I really hope you do give this one a try!

  5. Nafiza says:

    This was so beautiful, dude. It just took my heart and squeezed it tightly. And the cover is lovely too. Lovely review~!

  6. Incredible review as always, Heidi! You managed to capture the tone of this novel, in all its subtleties and depth, and I’m so glad you enjoyed it. For me, what made this book so special was the fact that we could see the cracks in Peter and Tiger Lily’s relationship, all while being caught up in their romance too. Although I never had the issues with the narration that you had and I’ve never harbored any particular hatred towards Peter Pan, it was never a story I enjoyed too much, so like you, I wasn’t overly upset by the ending. Just a tad, actually, since Anderson really made me feel for them. Anyway, I’m curious to see what you think of Peaches, mostly because the reviews have been mixed and it’s contemporary, but I do love this author’s writing. Yet another lovely review, dear! :)

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks, Keertana! YES, I was totally caught up in them, despite the cracks in their relationship. I could see that they shouldn’t end up together, they wouldn’t be happy, but couldn’t help being happy for their love in that moment.

      I have NO IDEA what I’ll think of Peaches, since it’s not my usual thing at all, but maybe I’ll really like it! I do hope to read it soonish (har har *looks at giant TBR*).

  7. I loved this book when I read it last year. I have always been fascinated with Peter Pan, but Tiger Lily, Tik Tok, Pine Sap, and Tink really stole my heart. But I think it was Anderson’s beautiful writing that made this Peter Pan re-imagining so striking, and it’s there right from the start in that gorgeous dedication you featured in your review. Her descriptions of Neverland and especially The Sky Eater’s were incredible. And I really loved Tink’s “voice” throughout this book, even though it broke my heart a little to read it. Excellent review:)

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks, Heather! I LOVE how all of these characters that Anderson added in/featured totally steal the show in this one. I was constantly highlighting things in this book, her writing was so phenomenal, I really hope her other work is like this.

  8. Holly says:

    Dark, evocative, and real – I agree. It was perfect. I think this is one of the best books I’ve read this year. The only thing I’d change is to not read it when I was sick. I didn’t mark any of my favorite passages! :/

    • Heidi says:

      It certainly went on my favorites for the year shelf, Holly! I wish you hadn’t been sick while reading it either (I’m the same way, I write off actually putting any effort into reading if I’m sick). I’m so glad you loved it though!

  9. Asheley says:

    This is one of those books that has been on my shelves unread for far too long. I absolutely love your words here, Heidi – they are beautiful. I am a fan of Peter Pan and the rest of the cast, and I’m hoping that when I get the book off of the shelf, it’ll mean as much to me as it has meant to so many others. I think sometimes when people just give so many glowing reviews to a book (one right behind the other) I get a little bit intimidated or turned off and it causes me to subconsciously push the book a little further away. Certainly not my intent here. Also, HELLO BEAUTIFUL COVER. One of the prettiest I’ve ever seen.

    • Heidi says:

      Thank you, Asheley! I really hope that you do make the time to read this one soon–considering how short it is (under 300 pages), it doesn’t take much! I totally know what you mean about putting off hyped books, because it really can change your expectations and leave you disappointed. I wasn’t planning on reading this one at all, but then we chose it for my book club, and it was a nice excuse to try. I was so glad I did! I’m torn about this cover, because I’m not sure I get it, although it is pretty. I guess it’s supposed to be Tinker Bell?

  10. Every review I read of Tiger Lily solidifies the fact that I’m the odd one out here. For some reason, I never could get past Tinker Bell’s narration. I also don’t really consider the book to be a love story – at least, not in the traditional way that I was expecting. Your review is so beautifully written that I wish I could have connected better with the story and could agree with the points you make. Oh well. It is interesting to see how books affect their readers in so many different ways.

    • Heidi says:

      I actually loved how this book was a non-traditional love story, I didn’t really see it as much of a romance though. I can totally understand your inability to connect with Tinker Bell’s narration, Amanda! I was worried I wouldn’t get used to it, and it was kind of killing the book for me, but somehow I got into it.

  11. Michelle says:

    Fantastic review, Heidi! I’ve seen this on goodreads, but haven’t read many reviews. This sounds like something I would really enjoy and I will definitely be checking it out soon!

  12. I’m so happy I read this review. I’ve resisted reading this because, like you, I’m just not a big fan of Peter Pan at all. But I’m interested in the first person empathetic POV — that actually sounds intriguing.
    Going to try to make time for this over the summer.

    • Heidi says:

      It IS intriguing! And it’s a great retelling no matter how you feel about Peter Pan (I don’t enjoy the original story either). I hope you do try this one over the summer, Jen.

  13. I read this review on my phone, surreptitiously, while I was at work the other day, and I loved it. So many of your points are so spot on, as usual. I ADORED this book. I’m a pretty big crier when I read, but I cried a lot even for me. I, too, loved how it showed the heartbreaking truth that first love is very rarely only or last love. And I was really struck by this line: “Each player in this novel is both hero and villain to another…” because I think it’s so very true about this book, particularly for me in the instance of Peter. I felt like I should hate him, but I couldn’t.
    Also, I LOVE that you shouted out Jodi Lynn Anderson’s dedication. It’s PERFECT, and such a succinct and true description of Tiger Lily.

    • Heidi says:

      Hahaha, thanks, Amy! I couldn’t even hate Hook in this book–I would love to read it from his point of view too, in fact. I LOVE the dedication so much. I’m not a crier, and didn’t cry in this one either, but I did tear up when Tink is talking about TL’s stopping aging.

  14. Jan says:

    This is a book I’ve seen all over the web, but haven’t bought yet. Definitely want to read it. Thanks for your review.

  15. Jasmine Rose says:

    I’m so glad you liked this one! I feel like even though a lot of people have declared their love for it, it’s still not getting the attention it deserves. I guess that’s kind of what the book is about though. It’s quietly powerful.

    • Heidi says:

      Jasmine, that IS totally what the book is about, great call. 😛

      And yes, despite countless wonderful reviews, I was still taken aback by how much I enjoyed this one.

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