Author: K. Ancrum
Narrators: Angel Pean
Audiobook Length: 6 hours 45 minutes
A retelling of Peter Pan in modern day Chicago, in which Wendy Darling follows Peter and his Lost Boys through the city’s nightlife and underbelly, only to discover that Peter isn’t what he seems…and the Lost Boys are in more trouble than they realize.
Darling is a unique retelling of Peter Pan set in the contemporary world of the Chicago underground. The character names and other elements, such as Mermaid Lagoon, are the same, but the author gives them a new spin. The novel takes a diverse cast and places them in a thrilling tale filled with murder and mystery. There is some “fantasy” kept in the story with the lure of the unknown and living without rules similar to the original story and weaving it together with a dark and edgy tone.
Wendy Darling is seventeen years old and has as just moved to the suburbs of Chicago with her family. She is excited to finally meet her online friend Eleanor in person and to figure out her new environment. She is anxious to become independent and begin college, so it comes as a surprise when a mysterious young man named Peter Pan breaks into her room through the window. As the house has been empty for a while, Peter is initially surprised to find Wendy there. Peter entices Wendy with a night out and Wendy eventually agrees. Here she starts a chaotic adventure with Peter and his “lost boys,” including his ex-girlfriend, Tinkerbelle. This initially is where the story lost me a little, as I can understand Wendy’s wish for adventure, but her transition from being skeptical of this person appearing in her room to agreeing to go out with him and his friends. For me, I just needed a little more inner dialogue to make this transition more plausible.
When Wendy is in the underground with the lost boys, she discovers that Detective Hook is pursuing them. The night progresses through a chaotic series of events where Wendy is out with Peter and his found family. Over the course of the novel, Wendy begins to see the darker side of things and her character begins to try to get out of the sticky situation. The characters in this story were interesting, but there are a lot of them, so it made it difficult to fully connect with everyone. The ones that were most difficult to understand are actually Wendy’s parents. Her parents are very cautious and weary about Wendy in a new setting. There is even an intruder chased from their property, yet they still leave Wendy home alone. To me, there is some disconnect as I cannot fathom why the parents would leave her alone.
Overall, the major plot twist of the story was very unexpected. There are some inklings here and there for some of the story, but I could not land on the major one before it was actually revealed. The audiobook version was well done as Angel Pean provided a great narration of Wendy and the story. While I found some details lacking in places, the one place where this story shines is the cast of characters. There are multiple characters of color, including Wendy, who is black. There are characters that are ace, lesbian, questioning, and bisexual. I do not even think that covers all of them, but I found it refreshing to have these characters included in a normalized fashion where the representation does not feel forced. Although I felt the story was lacking some details to make it feel complete, for me, it was incredibly unique and kept me interested from start to finish.