Peter Pan In Scarlet, by Geraldine McCaughrean

The sequel of “Peter Pan”, and very hyped one at that. Posters all over the local bookstores, a prominent place in the library for display, all kinds of stuff. The hype has generated an overall feel for the book before you even pick it up. The sort of thing you can read aloud to the grandkids, in memory of your childhood love, Peter Pan (or love-to-hate, whatever the case may be). It should be here noted that any connections I make in this review are my own ideas. But I don’t think that enjoying (or deploring) “Peter Pan” prerequisites reading this book. Its in a class all on its own.

Well, maybe not all on its own. Its probably got some company in the feels-like-a-certain-movie-remade-into-a-not-so-kidsy-kids-book category (this is my personal first foray into that sector, so perhaps I need to research it more or something, because the whys of the genre escape me entirely). Which would be fine, if the movie in question was really good (“The Ultimate Gift”), or even actually edifying (“Amazing Grace”). I could understand why they bothered with the movie tie-in at all if it was at least acceptable (“The Queen”), or even just popular enough to justify its existence as a movie (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) and subsequent book derivative from purely economical purposes. Note that none of the above are little kidsy movies, which this book is kinda positioned as. I wouldn’t know a lot about movies, except….

My cousins go to the theater at least once a week to see a movie. Usually more often. Between the frequency of their visits to the theater and the frequency of family get-togethers (also, once a week), I get to be “up” on the latest and greatest (or lamest) films. It should be noted that this situation has existed for five years, at least, and I’ve never had a book-movie crossover experience. Oh, some books I like have been made into movies, and I have read some books that were written of movies, but never, ever, ever, have I read a book and felt like I was watching a revision of a movie. This is exactly how I felt after about six chapters of “Peter Pan In Scarlet”, and I have to say, it was a little uncanny. Especially since the book’s progress aligned so closely with the movie plots. I have never seen “Saw”, or any of the following sequels, but if I did, I suspect it would progress a lot like the plot of this book, which is so similar it really seriously creeped me out. Until about chapter three, this is a very interesting book, and I can see a children’s book following the events of the first chapter (under whose auspices the work was accepted for publication). The rest though, well, it earns at least an R triple e triple y, as in cREEEpYYY.

Plot: The movie “Saw” (and its accompanying tri-sequel films) is basically a very annoying person forcing other people to run around in terrified circles at their whim, allegedly to learn some important lesson, with lots of violence and weirdness and unnecessary surgery along the way. I havn’t seen it, but if I ever did I suspect it would have the same feel of stupi-borin-creepy-ness as this story (and everyone is literally running around in circles for awhile). Basically, Peter Pan’s lost men (er, boys) head back to NeverLand because they are having nightmares, in an effort to save Peter Pan from… whatever is causing the nightmares, which is explained to be time itself but really who cares, because once they get there no one says anything about saving or time or.. um… anything relevant to the plot up until then. The whole group goes off on a series of adventures for the sake of adventures, the only really dangerous obstacles being the ones that Peter, in his “innocence” has created for himself. Anyone who ever wondered what happened to the nannies of the lost boys’ carriages, or the lost boys themselves once hey grew up, will be happy to know that they all hung around NeverLand and tormented Peter Pan whenever they got the chance. Along the way, some characters are introduced, including animal-talker Ravello, and a male companion for Tinkerbell.

Positives: The first few chapters of the book find us looking in on all the Lost Boys and Wendy in their various states of adulthood. This is hilarious, even if they have all given up their remaining half-brains to their children, but…

Negatives: …then everyone starts having nightmares, and the whole thing just goes downhill from there. First, we have to watch while everyone tries to get back into their childishness, mainly by putting on the clothes of their children, the result being that, since not all the lost boys have male children, the group heading to NeverLand has some boys, a girl (Wendy), and a female lost boy, replete with a tutu and an attraction to the boy lost boys, all of whom fight over her affections in a series of scenes that are really NOT FUNNY (the effort to make these moments “cute” does not help. There is nothing cute about it, or about the new boy fairy that Tinkerbell likes so much). Next, NeverLand has become a land of nightmares, and for no apparent reason, Peter Pan has not noticed, and for no apparent reason, neither do the kiddies, who go off on all these adventures to meet creepy people who are mean to them and each other, and for no apparent reason, the Lost Boys start to grow up at varying speeds only to be banished from Peter Pan’s sight after they use their newfound height to help the kiddies out of a jam, and, I think you get the picture. The theme of no-reason culminates in the end…

SPOILERS …where Peter Pan is dying (don’t start clapping yet). It appears Ravello is really Captain Hook in disguise, and in addition to his famous poison-tears, he has developed a new power; any child who holds his hand and says what he wants to be when he grows up will automatically grow up. Thus he is given responsibility for most of the bad things that have happened to the children. Peter Pan’s illness is attributed to his wearing various articles of Hook’s clothing, so Hook is forced by the children to remove his necktie and so forth. This does not help, so one of the kids holds Hook’s hand and says he wants to grow up to be a doctor. He grows up really fast (guess the other kids had some sort of protection, it taking most of them at least a chapter to do this). Then he fillets Peter, finally finding an removing the cause of trouble; apparently, Peter used Wendy’s handkerchief to wipe his nose earlier. Her handkerchief, despite the many adventures and shipwrecks and so forth, still had a piece of London fog left inside. The fog got into Peter’s system, and was wrapped around his heart, slowly killing him. The grown up lost boy removes the piece of fog from Peter’s heart, and everyone is happy. Especially Peter, who, once recovered, banishes the boy because he has grown up, and we don’t hear anything more about him while everyone else lives happily ever after. I am not kidding here. Laughing as I write, yes, but kidding, no. END OF SPOILERS

OVERALL: highly recommended to any child who thinks they like horror novels. This will cure them right away, or at least bore them into submission. Everyone else, pick up a biography on one of the Tudor royals, whose lives make a lot more sense.

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4 thoughts on “Peter Pan In Scarlet, by Geraldine McCaughrean

  1. I take it that you liked this book…. 🙂

    So they banish the lost boys who grow up, eh? What about being a kid at heart? I guess us adults aren’t allowed to have any fun at all. 🙂

  2. haha, very funny. I wonder about the kid at heart part… Personally, I think adults actually have more fun than kids.

  3. On your line, “The theme of no-reason culminates in the end…”, I’d like to comment that this is a philosophy addressed by Francis Shaeffer (whom I highly recommend) in “How Should We Then Live?”. Man through time has devised various humanistic philosophies in an attempt to avoid God. Non-reason and chance are the newest (or is it really new?) of these. Pushed forward by the arts, we should (unfortunately) see more of this belief. This is probably an example. Consider the poem, “The Waste Land”, which was published in the twenties. ( I believe this was written by a former British soldier of WW1, who suffered from shell shock).

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