It’s of little surprise that a twenty-something in the early years of her career and graduate school would be really into Peter Pan stories. The concept of never growing up and old, living forever as a footloose and fancy free child or teen (depending on who is interpreting it) sounds just about fantastic every morning when my alarm is singing absurdly loudly for me to “Wake up, open your sleepy eyes, stretch out, make up the bed now…”. It’s times like these that Neverland, grand adventures, and a foe other than my overtly perky alarm would be very nice. So when the stream of Peter Pan movies came out a few years ago, I was hooked. The 2003 Peter Pan had me crying at the end chanting that “ I do believe in fairies, I do, I do.” The J. M. Barrie film Finding Neverland while interminably slow at times still enchanted me because I longed to be a part of that world. And when the official sequel to the play was written, Peter Pan in Scarlett, I had it signed and brought it home from England to my sister.
Therefore when WYR did our book birthdays for this month, the novel Another Pan by Daniel and Dina Naveri intrigued me. I wasn’t sure how a modern interpretation with teenagers 16 and up would work, but I was at least willing to try. The novel takes place at Marlowe Prep school, the same as the duo’s first book, Another Faust (which Christine reviewed). Having not read that one yet (though I definitely plan to now) I cannot speak to how similar they might be, but I think they are companion novels and reading one doesn’t demand that you read the other in order to understand it. The characters all share the same names that Pan fans know quite well: Wendy and John Darling, Peter, Tinkerbelle (Tina), the Lost Boys…they’re all there, just in a way you’ve never seen them before. At the beginning it seems as if their names were merely borrowed and you wonder why original names weren’t chosen instead. However as things progressed you could see how expertly the Naveri’s wove a very new version of Peter Pan while still borrowing the bones of the old.
The story itself is quite literally riveting. It tells the darker side of a never-ending search for eternal youth. Peter is not the mischievous but innocent boy we know. He’s an indeterminable late teen/early 20s guy who leads essentially an international crime ring of Lost Boys- some are orphans and some just feel like ones, but they are all ferociously loyal to Peter. He flits all over the world searching for the Book of Gates, an ancient Egyptian book of the dead that most Egyptologists to be a myth- all but one, Professor Darling. This brings Peter to Marlowe where an Egyptian exhibit is on loan from the British Museum, and Peter, his snarky tag-along Tina, and Wendy and John Darling collide. Peter needs the book in order to track down the bonedust of five mummies that will allow him to live forever, and being the children of an Egyptologist, Wendy and John know a thing or two about mummies. Together they open the gates to the underworld; letting it slip into their school as they sort through fact and legends, battle a few sand monsters, an evil nurse/ goddess of death, and the trials and tribulations of high school.
Now before you scoff and think this is a book version of a Brendan Frasier movie, you couldn’t be more wrong. The combined education credentials of the authors is evident in every page of the book, yet it never seems like a dry academic novel. You know they’re smart, you know they did their research, but at no point does that infringe on the sheer creativity and genius of the story. Instead the five Egyptian legends lure you in while the absolute normalcy (and subtle mocking) of the teen drama in the background keeps it firmly grounded in reality. That juxtaposition of the two is really what endears Another Pan to me. The novel is predominantly third person omniscient, almost to the point you could hear the narrator in your head (it sounded like the Peter Pan  woman for me).
Yet the commentary on the times is priceless. John Darling is thirteen, a complete dork and determined to give himself an image overhaul before starting his first year at Marlowe. He attempts this by slowly renovating his online presence, particularly his Facebook. Now pop culture in books is rarely done well I feel, but this had me in stitches. For example, one status update has him insinuating he does drugs, another that he “popped a cap” last night, and of course this one:
“John Darling had a great time last night…but don’t ask for details cause she knows who she is and that’s all I’m gonna say about that,”
implying that the dorky-scrawny-online gaming-Egyptologist-in-training-thirteen-year-old was getting some serious action. Admit it, you know this kid. Wendy, his responsible and effortlessly popular older sister merely shakes her head and tries to get her new boyfriend to take him under his wing. Throughout the whole novel John is switching up his identify- trying on prepster, jock, thug, miscreant, adventurer, and Lost Boy and each is more fantastic than the last. He envies Peter for his confidence and fearlessness while at the same time it sets Wendy’s heart-a-flutter. You know it can’t end well, and that the classic Peter Pan means that his self-interest will triumph over everything, but his devil-may-care attitude keeps you turning the pages.
Between a Peter Pan story and Egyptology (totally my favorite part of Western Civ), I was a sucker for this book. I loved the way it was crafted as much as I did the story itself- which is a rarity. I highly recommend it, and while you may not be chanting about believing in Fairies at the end, you will be looking slant-eyed at anyone missing one incisor and wondering if the miscreant youths you encounter just might be Lost Boys.
Make sure to comment below and tell us about your favorite Peter Pan remake. Are you a sucker for the play, the Disney version, or that snarky Jeremy Sumpter? Also follow the authors on twitter- it looks like they’re getting to announce a new book in the Another series! @DinaNayeri and @DanielNayeri