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Lost in the Never Woods: 04/14/21

Lost in the Never Woods

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas is a contemporary retelling / pastiche of Peter Pan by J M Barrie (1904). The source material while a personal favorite, is notably fraught with sexist, classist, and racist tropes. The last time I read Barrie's novel was 1988.

Aiden Thomas brings the novel forward to the present and moves the location from an middle class London neighborhood to Astoria Oregon. Fictional Astoria is more wooded and more wild than real world Oregon. It's also unfortunately devoid of pirates. Captain Hook et al do not make an appearance. In fact, Neverland, beyond it's reach through the Astorian woods, doesn't make an appearance.

Wendy Darling has just turned eighteen. She volunteers at the local hospital where her mother works. She plans to go to college to become an RN but her best friend is trying to convince her to aim higher.

Wendy, though, is burned out, haunted by the lasting effects of being the only child to return after she and her brothers went missing five years ago. She has no memories of her ordeal beyond that of a gnarled old tree and the figure of a boy. Both she draws obsessively.

Then new children start disappearing and a familiar boy appears on her drive home. Peter Pan has come to Astoria. Like in the original, he's lost his shadow and needs Wendy to reattach it. This time, though, the shadow is more powerful and it's evil. It's a side of Peter Pan that brings to mind the Peter Pan arc in Once Upon a Time.

Aiden Thomas returns to the themes of family, death, and loss. This time, though, there is no romance beyond a brief infatuation that Wendy feels for Peter as he ages into early adulthood. Instead the focus is on allowing oneself to grieve and how families struggle to continue living after the loss of a child (or children).

With the exception of Wendy (and perhaps her mother, if Peter's stories can be believed), lost kids (no longer just boys) don't come back from Neverland. They might leave and move on, but they don't return.

A chart showing the relative placements of Peter Pan and Lost in the Never Woods on the Road Narrative Spectrum

Both Peter Pan and Lost in the Never Woods sit on the road narrative spectrum. Where they sit, though, reflects on their different thematic cores. Peter Pan is about siblings (CC) traveling to a magical land, a utopia (FF), via an offroad route (flying to the second star on the right and straight on to morning) (66).

Lost in the Never Woods, meanwhile, is about a scarecrow/minotaur team (99) where Wendy wants to rescue her brothers and Peter is the embodiment of Neverland. To accomplish her goal, Wendy must recover her memories, a form of traveling to uhoria (CC). Wendy and Peter's route is through the cornfield, or more specifically the tkaronto. It's a journey through liminal space and time.

Four stars

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