Peter Darling is such a great read. It follows the story of Peter, who had left Neverland and is now returning 10 years later.
This book invented character development. At first, Peter comes off as childish, selfish, and arrogant beyond measure, despite him being in his 20s. I really didn’t like him, I wanted to slap some sense into him. However, throughout the story Peter would keep growing and learning and I slowly came to love him more and more. You could really see how Peter’s character underwent different changes as the book went on, which didn’t even feel forced at all.
Peter is transgender, and we get got see flashbacks of his life when people would treat him as Wendy. It was absolutely heartbreaking to see the different ways he would be treated by the people he cared for and loved. He would suffer so many different types of aggression (like dead-naming, misgendering, etc) and that’s without mentioning Peter’s own fears and insecurities transferring to the present-day passages such as gender dysphoria or the very real PTSD because of the way he was treated back in London. These issues didn’t really take over the whole book, and yet they felt crucial to the story because it made us understand Peter and his motives even more.
I also really loved Hook as a character. Hook is older than Peter, and he’s been longer in Neverland, so his voice comes off as very cynical. He’s also much more straightforward and honest, which made for really interesting interactions between him and Peter. However underneath all that we all that we also see a different side to him, which is vastly different to the Hook we think we know from Peter’s stories.
The author really knows how to write characters, because other than Peter I also fell in love with different secondary characters, such as Ernest (who I would really love to read more about!!), and Tinkerbell (who was sassy and kind). Their interactions with Peter were always so genuine and they all seemed to have a distinct voice to me.
“He was struck by the feeling that they were the only two people alive in the world – that this was something beyond any magic of illusion or story Neverland could conjure. Something real.”
You know what else the author writes really well? The romance. THIS ROMANCE IS EVERYTHING. I was genuinely blown away by the romance because I wasn’t actually feeling it at first. I’m not a huge fan of the enemies to lovers trope and I didn’t see how Peter and Hook would fall for each other because I don’t tend to fall in love with people who are tying to kill me. BUT wow! Austin Chant really knows how to write sexual tension. Like I said before, Hook isn’t who we thought he was, so seeing Peter discover new sides of him was so great. Not to mention the fact that Hook is so self-assured and confident, and the way he would flirt with Peter made my heart sing.
Neverland is really well developed, and the way it was written gave nods to the original tale while not using the problematic tropes present in the original. I liked seeing the familiar things like the mermaids or the crocodile, but the author added different and new elements that made discovering Neverland all the worth while.
My only gripes with the story was that in certain action scenes, there would always be this deus ex machina moment. So, every time there was this big scene, I would already know that something was going to happen that would be an easy way out for them. I’m not saying I didn’t want them to be okay, but I wanted their solutions to be more organic, and not just be like “MAGIC!”. Another thing that I wish was done better was the characterization of the Lost Boys. I feel like we didn’t get to know most of them, so I didn’t feel as emotionally invested as I wanted to be.
However, don’t let these small issues derail you from the story. It’s still an incredible #ownvoices book, and the ending was so satisfying! The cutest, most adorable, most heart-warming ending I’ve ever read! Peter Darling is highly recommended, as it stands out from other Peter Pan retellings, and gives it a spin you didn’t know you needed.
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