Lost Boy by Christina Henry

A review of the fantasy adventure novel Lost Boy by Christina Henry.

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Lost Boy is a retelling of Peter Pan. It’s the story of Peter and his Lost Boys, what really happened in Never Never Land before the Darlings arrived.

It’s not really a spoiler to say that Lost Boy also works as an origin story for Captain Hook. The story is narrated by Jamie, Peter’s second-in-command and the boy who’s been with him for the longest; a ruthless fighter whose trademark is cutting off the hands of his victims—it’s pretty obvious right from the start that Jamie is Captain Hook, before he became a pirate. The story follows his journey from devoted follower to Peter’s mortal enemy.

Henry makes a few changes from the source material. The Native Americans are absent in this narrative, the main threat (apart from pirates) comes from the many-eyed, giant spider-like monsters that lurk in the plains that surround their tree home. Mermaids and fairies and crocodiles are mentioned briefly, but don’t play a very big part in the story. The main conflict is the relationship between the characters, primarily between Jamie and Peter himself.

Jamie is a surprisingly warm and caring character. He acts as a mother to the lost boys, as well as an intermediary and peacekeeper between them and Peter. He is the one who makes sure that the children are fed, housed, taken care of, organised, trained and looked after. Peter, on the other hand, is basically a serial killer in a leaf jerkin. I really liked the angle Henry took, playing up the uninhibited aspects of Peter’s character, which J.M. Barrie portrayed as charming and fey, and showing what kind of grim reality would actually happen with those traits played out to their end. Barrie’s Peter was wild and brave, a kind of untamed spirit whose lack of empathy was almost cute, whereas Henry’s Peter is a psychopath who manipulates everyone around him, controlling the lost boys to fit with his every passing whim.

This focus on character was the book’s strength, but also its downfall. In such a character-driven story, I have to believe in and root for the characters whole-heartedly, and I found myself too distant from Jamie to get really deep inside his head. I also found several of the characters’ fates rather expected. I wanted to be surprised, and instead the outcomes were predictable. By the end of the book, however, I was wondering about what kind of fate would befall the Darlings if Henry ever chose to write a sequel. That said, I still enjoyed Lost Boy, and I was engaged enough to finish it in a few sittings. If you like your childhood heroes revealed as completely unhinged, then Lost Boy is definitely the book for you.

Alice Olivia Scarlett is a freelance writer and editor. She lives in Thanet with the seagulls and parakeets.

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