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Posted February 26, 2012
all of the great pieces never come together
Gail Carson Levine, author of the insanely awesome novel "Ella Enchanted," always thought that Wendy was crazy for going home when she could have stayed with Peter Pan in Neverland. At least that's what her mini-bio on the dust jacket of her new novel says. Levine also dedicates the book to her first boyfriend, Peter Pan.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Before even getting into the story, though, I have to say that this novel is quite beautiful. The actual book is made of high quality paper to accommodate the illustrations that often feature as tw-page spreads throughout the novel. These pictures, watercolors painted by David Christiana, are stunning. The colors are subtle and really the skill is just so obvious in all of the drawings that viewing them is a joy. Christiana manages to stay true to the original Disney vision for Tinker Bell while making her "look" slightly new and different to better fit in with the other fairies.
Unfortunately, it takes more than great illustrations to sustain a good book. The basic plot stays pretty true to some of the elements found in the original story of Peter Pan. The book starts when a baby laughs (every time a baby laughs for the first time, a fairy is born). This fairy, named Prilla, is special. Not only is she going to be a Never Fairy in Neverland, she is also unlike any fairy the island has seen before. Prilla says "please" and "thank you" like humans (called "Clumsies" by fairies). She even curtsies and apologizes. Stranger still, Prilla is able to move between Neverland and the dreams of Clumsy children.
I had several problems with the story. The idea of each fairy having a talent, while superficially cute, has deeper problems upon further investigation. It just feels too much like each fairy having a clique and, even worse, the story spends a lot of time focusing on Prilla being special in a bad way for not having a talent. This issue is resolved by the end of the story, but it just seems like a bad message to send to children. (And what's up with the name Prilla? Seriously.)
The narrative of the story also started to grate very near the beginning of the book. I haven't read J. M. Barrie's "Peter Pan" so I don't know if Levine was trying emulate his style or not--I think she was but need to investigate further--but it just didn't work. Frankly, it sounded like Levine was writing in a style that was not her own and with which she was not entirely comfortable.
The best parts of this novel were when Levine was looking at the characters originally found in "Peter Pan." Her descriptions of the mermaids, and of Tinker Bell's relationship with Peter were really enjoyable. Captain Hook also features in the plot and was awesome. Unfortunately all of these events take only about ten pages combined(the book is 208).
This book has a lot going for it and I wanted to like it more than I did, but all of the great pieces never come together (with the mediocre ones) to create a solid, enjoyable whole.