Earlier this year I read another one of Christina Henry’s novels, The Mermaid, which is also a reimagining of a classic story or myth (in that case, of PT Barnum’s infamous Feejee Mermaid). While it was a good read though not super captivating, upon looking at some of Henry’s other works, I was drawn in by a series of covers for the UK versions of her various novels to date, which included this one pictured for Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook. And you know the junior-high version of myself always rears her little head to get intrigued by any and every pirate-adjacent story.
Lost Boy is a reimagining of Peter Pan and serves as a new origin story of the figure of Captain Hook, told from the point of view of (you guessed it) one of Peter’s “Lost Boys” named Jamie. Jamie was the first boy that Peter ever took to his island where, once you are there and involved with Peter’s magic, never grow old unless you want to. After spending hundreds of seasons on the island, Jamie has taken on a protective, care-giving role for the group, as he has seen so many other boys come and go as they typically end up dead on the island after a time: despite never growing old physically, he can’t help but grow up mentally in some ways, and again after all this time the allure of Peter and his all-play-all-day tendencies are starting to lose their shine. Jamie can’t help but see some of the cruel aspects of Peter, and after a few more recent incidents that cross the line, the island of boys end up having their safety threatened, as well as their happiness with Peter.
It feels as though I have seen (or at least heard rumblings of) a few more recent adaptations and interpretations of Peter Pan that show him in a less-flattering light than the almost ubiquitous image of him in the Disney movie portrays: in reality, there is a bit of a manipulative and creepy edge to Peter in the original source material, and here it is turned up for us to see first-hand through the first boy who falls in love with his nature, only to be the one who falls out of this state of love the hardest in the end.
I really ate this novel up, following Jamie’s thoughts and feelings as he struggles to come to terms with the negative aspects of someone who he once loved for so long, and asking himself if he’s willing to put up with it anymore. It has been a long time coming, and we really just fall into the story once things hit a breaking point, so we don’t see some of the leadup and smaller things that led to his more recent state of thinking and feeling. Yet, the character he meet at this point is interesting enough, and the glimpses of Peter we get from him are engaging and more complicated than the I-just-want-to-play-fight-and-adventure front he puts on. There are also aspects of adventure and action, as well as some violence that really brings the whole story down to earth. I would say it perhaps leans into the violence a bit much at times, but it never feels too out of place or egregious. Truly, the only complaint I would have about the novel is that you get a sense pretty quickly about where the whole thing is going to go (I mean, the title itself gives it away a bit).
All that said, I often seem to enjoy when writers revisit characters with certain established mythologies or characterizations known in the general public, only to flip of the point of view to see their side of things. While this may not be the most original way of going about writing a story, I think it makes for an interesting re-engagement from time to time, and in this case, Lost Boy is no exception.
CBR10 Bingo Square: Cover Art