What a pleasant surprise. This is kind of like Tuck Everlasting told by Lemony Snicket; it's so moving and sad whilst being dark and playful. Like the tale that inspires it, it's a story of loss. I went in open-minded but reluctant (unsure if I could get into the story), and came out very satisfied. Furthermore:
- Sometimes it feels like a middle school tone -- because there is all of this Disney animation and all of these stage productions you're having to squash as they leap from your mind's recesses. And the neat and tidy allusions and hat-tips to the original tale are all there...and they're a little cutesie...yet...it's more mature and moving than any of those adaptations (and more like Barrie's original -- tinged with sadness). It certainly isn't a "kid's book."
- Death, murder, and murderers are often mentioned, for a start. The references to mature content of a sexual variety is essential to the story and handled deftly and suitably vaguely (and yet it is heart-breaking all the same. Kudos, Anderson).
- But there is no swearing or sex scenes. There is some tribal drug use and old-world alcohol drinking.
- There's some explicit gender commentary I wasn't excited about, but in looking back, I think it's a good discussion point.
- The writing is so poetic and yet easy to follow! And the characters descriptions are so good.
- Initially I was unimpressed by the narrator choice. It felt superfluous, laboured, and at times even distracting. Sometimes I would forget the device was being used and would settle in to third-person omniscience only to be ripped out of my imagining by the "fly on the wall" speaking of my protag and herself as fly as "we." It dulled some key moments, and so I thought it a poor and unfortunate detraction to the narrative...until it wasn't. By the end, I was completely sold. Reaching the half-way point in this book I knew I wasn't stopping until it was over.
- It felt like such a beautiful and emotional tale that deserved a good sigh as it ended.
Not only is the introduction Snicket-ish, but the overall embedding of darkness in a lyrical adventure was too -- and that is what this is, a playful yet dark adventure love-and-loss story.