A Superbly Realized Sequel to Peter Pan
By Lara Pienaar
Peter Pan has been a beloved character since his introduction by author J.M. Barrie. His mischievous sense of adventure, heroism and imagination has delighted fans both young and old, across generations. It takes a bold author to pen a sequel to a literary classic and the results are typically less than stellar. Happily, in the case of Wendy’s Wish, author Lara S. Pienaar is more than able to meet the challenge.
The story starts at the end of the original Peter Pan book: Peter has dropped the Darling children off at home but instead of going back to Neverland as planned, Wendy convinces Peter to stay by telling him that it will be a great game to pretend to be a normal child for a while. Peter agrees to stay and subsequently takes great delight in finding new ways to rebel against anyone he perceives as an authority figure. Peter’s deep-seated lack of trust in all parents soon drives him to run back to Neverland, breaking Wendy’s heart. Wendy learns to cope with his absence and puts Neverland behind her until one night she returns through a dream and learns that Peter is in danger from his old nemesis Hook, whose soul has taken over the crocodile that swallowed him whole. Wendy must learn the secret to get back to Neverland and save Peter – both from Hook and from his fear of love.
One of the things that makes this novel so successful is the origin stories that the author presents for each character. She fills in the gaps with Peter’s initial arrival in Neverland and creates a tale of the mermaid Selene who stole him from his mother, yet told him he wasn’t wanted. Her lie is the basis for Peter’s dogged insistence on rejecting all parents and his refusal to grow up. Hook also gets more focus in this novel and his childhood and internal conflict are highlighted nicely. The individual stories are connected to the main plot not only by a connection to Neverland, but also by the overriding theme of love: love lost, love found, love remembered and love betrayed. It is love that influences the characters, alters their decisions and makes them who they are. It is also love that can set them free. The theme of love is present in one form or another throughout the book and comes to a full circle at the end.
The style of writing and the time period in which it is set is spot-on with the original Peter Pan novels. The characters are vividly written, complex and fully realized – no character is either all good or all bad but a mixture of both. The writing, overall, is highly descriptive and paints a picture for the reader from start to finish. This is a fantastic novel and homage to J.M. Barrie’s work. Fans of children’s literature and Peter Pan will absolutely love Wendy’s Wish.
Reviewed by Barbara Cothern