Captain Hook's daughter Jocelyn is being raised by her grandparents. She's wild and has no manners turning the household into chaos. She's sent to a boarding school where she is rejected and singled out by the head mistress. Unhappy, she makes a friend with a boy her age, Roger, who works in the kitchen. Roger is unfairly fired because the head mistress thinks he and Jocelyn are interested in each other romantically. On the same day that he leaves, Jocelyn receives a posthumous note from her father, Captain Hook, asking her to avenge his death by killing the monstrous crocodile that ate him. She sets off to Neverland and hires an inept pirate crew that is similar to "Peter Pan"; yet, this updated version takes out most of the stereotypes, racism, and sexism while creating characters that do want to grow up. Humor is littered throughout that will have you singing yo-ho and yapping like a pirate.
Barrie portrays Wendy, Tiger Lily, and Tinkerbell as damsels-in-distress that are dependent on Peter to save them. The jealous interactions between the female characters result from them seeing their importance, self-worth, and identities through Peter not within themselves. Wendy plays the stereotyped housewife that won't go on the Lost Boys adventures and is content to feed them, give them medicine, and read them stories. Heidi Schulz presents the exact opposite. Jocelyn is the author of her own adventures and is in the middle of the action. She saves Roger and is the hero of her own story. She is not larger than life at the finishing school, but is in the imaginative world of Neverland. She's not always that likable, but she's a strong person and willing to face her fears of being abandoned, making friends, and failing her father. Neverland not only represents Jocelyn being imaginative, it shows her learning to believe in herself and have the confidence to grow up and be the captain of her own adventures.
The plot takes certain elements from the Peter Pan series but mostly when Jocelyn goes to Neverland. The first part shows Jocelyn feeling trapped in school and wanting adventures. This is the school girl story with the misfit girl being bullied. This is the author's creation that has references to "Peter Pan," such as Roger, jolly chap, who is named after Hook's ship "The Jolly Roger" and the skull and bones pirate flag. Or there is maidservant Gerta that sounds like she'd make a good pirate and the school girl, Nanette, that sounds a bit like Nana the nurse dog in the original. Jocelyn and Peter can't wait to explore the world and plan on having great adventures. They are excited to grow up. It isn't until an enormous raven named, Edgar, flies Jocelyn to Neverland that nods to the classics are seen from mermaids to natives.
When Jocelyn ends up being taken to Neverland, the author has the plot follow elements of Barrie's books although it is completely her own adventure and explores a character doing the opposite of Peter Pan. The book gets more silly here and pokes fun at the classic. Her pirate crew is the 16th best on the island and they pretend that they've lost limbs in a battle. One-armed Jack has two perfectly good arms but pretends he lost the other in an epic fight with enemies on a rival pirate ship. He's so thrilled when the crocodile actually bites it off it takes the violence out of the scene. One-armed Jack yells in joy as his arm disappears that he doesn't have to pretend anymore and can brag all he wants. It made me think of Mr. Darling in Barrie's story who wants to be important and is thrilled when he gets media attention for sleeping in the dog's house as a vigil after he believes Wendy and his two sons have been kidnapped by villains.
Then there is the whole mother business. In Barrie's book, Peter and the Lost Boys want a mother. Captain Hook and his pirates kidnap Wendy because they want a mother. When Jocelyn screams at her crew to pay attention, they respond, "We're sorry, Mother." "Mother? Mother! Which of you dogs dares to call me mother?" She didn't wait for a reply. "I am not your mother. I am your captain, and you would be wise to address me as such." In "Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens," Peter gets one wish from the fairy, Queen Mab, and he wishes to see his mother. At the climax, Jocelyn does the same thing but her experience is the opposite of Peters. While Peter's mother has forgotten him, Jocelyn's mother gives wise advice that allows Jocelyn to grow up.
The Cannibals are stereotyped with their choppy English language and desire to be English. There is a bit of colonialism in that the natives want to meet royalty. In an ironic twist Jocelyn teaches them manners and table etiquette. The author pokes fun at the absurdness of how complex eating is for royalty. Critics have cited the cultural insensitivity of Peter Pan toward Natives that are presented as savages. Schulz presents them as idiots as well and while its funny, the humor is at the expense of the indigenous people. It is interesting to examine classic and modern literature as it relates to current cultures. It is easy to see why Huck Finn, for instance, is controversial in its portrayal of African Americans. I found the portrayal of Joe offensive at the end but can see how Twain was imitating the minstrel shows that were acceptable at that time. Here, Barrie is representing commonly held conventions such as presenting Natives as savages or wimpy Victorian women with specific motherly roles in society. I don't like it, but find it interesting from a historical perspective. What I don't like about Schulz's portrayal of the Natives is her poking fun at languages and how people speak. She's actually showing Jocelyn being a dip by shouting at the Natives - a common and annoying trait people do when someone doesn't understand a foreigner attempting to communicate in the native language. What I don't like is making fun of people that speak broken English. Of course, most people laugh at my Chinese (I live in Taiwan) because it is so bad so I know I'm overly sensitive to this. Take it for what it is worth.
Roger has forgotten who he is in Neverland. He can't remember Jocelyn and is stuck in childhood. In the real book Peter Pan wants a kiss from Wendy but never really understands what it is. Schulz uses the same feature in her book except by the end Roger and Jocelyn know exactly what a kiss means and seem to be okay with that. The two want to grow up and move on. They don't want to be stuck like hamsters on an endless wheel-of-childhood.
Peter Pan makes an appearance in this book and is a selfish braggart just like in the original. He takes credit for Jocelyn's actions and is fearlessly cocky. He likes to put himself in danger rather than take the easy way out which is also the same as he was in "Peter Pan." He fights Captain Krueger's pirate crew by joining Jocelyn's crew, but then decides to battle Jocelyn's crew. He isn't going to fight her crew in the same way. That would be too easy. Instead he decides to have the Lost Boys find poison apples to kill them. Peter is playacting one of the stories he's been told called, "Snow White." He just can't separate stories from his reality. Schulz does a terrific job with melding the classic with her own original ideas. Weigh anchor with this fun tale and hit the seas.