Never-Again-Neverland: Gerald Brom’s The Child Thief

Designed by Paula Russell Szafranski. Copyright © 2009 by Brom. All Rights Reserved.

When people think of Peter Pan, they imagine a redheaded imp with pointy ears, green clothes, and a mischievous smile.  They imagine Neverland as a world of magic, where childhood is everlasting and every dream comes true.

Gerald Brom takes that saccharine image and shoves it through a mile of poisonous thorns in his novel, The Child Thief.

We follow one of the protagonists, Nick, as he follows Peter from his bleak life in Manhattan into the mystical realm of Avalon, which has become a nightmarish land beyond time.  Peter has become a ruthless recruiter and warrior, pitting his child soldier allies against ancient pirates called “Flesh-Eaters,” led by none other than Captain Hook.  Nick must survive the horrors of this new world, while Peter struggles to grasp the truth behind his heritage and the harsh reality of what has befallen Avalon.

Brom’s version of J.M. Barrie‘s tale is quite gripping, albeit a little disorienting at first.  Few would expect Tinker Bell-style pixies to become vicious blue fairies who are little better than mosquitoes.  Nor would one expect the Lost Boys to become trained killers who joyfully call themselves “the Devils.”  Any hope of innocence in this story–like Neverland itself–has been effectively quashed.

And yet, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Can it be hard to bear?  Possibly.  There are some depths to which the story will sink that might make the reader reconsider this tale.  Without revealing too much, I have to say that my main disappointment is with the ending, as I felt Nick’s storyline didn’t get quite the resolution it deserved.

But to be fair, this story is truly about Peter, the eternal child, whose magic will always enchant us, be it light or dark, and for his performance alone I recommend this tale.

Bibliography: Brom, Gerald.  The Child Thief.  New York: HarperCollins, 2008.

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