A classic story from the First Golden Age of children’s literature — a period which began with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland — Peter Pan has a place in literary history similar to the Alice stories. It’s the tale of a group of children whisked away from their everyday lives to explore magical land, where normal rules don’t apply. It’s remained a beloved story since it was first published (or, in the case of Peter Pan, first performed, since the story began its life as a stage play), and has inspired multiple Peter Pan retellings and reinterpretations over the decades. Like the Alice stories, Peter Pan has had the Disney treatment, both in cartoon and live-action form, as well as being a basis for multiple authors’ original stories that draw on this magical, memorable, and often dark story.
While the original story is firmly set in Victorian London, the framework of Peter Pan — a tale about an immortal boy who lives on a magical island that metamorphoses depending on what game he happens to be playing that day — means that it can easily be transposed to a whole host of different settings. As well as retellings that stay true to the story’s roots, there are Peter Pan-inspired novels that move the action to the modern-day U.S., or which focus on what might happen to Wendy and the other children after their return from the exciting but often terrifying island of Neverland. Here are some of the best Peter Pan retellings from recent years — just watch out for crocodiles.
Darling by K. Ancrum
A modern take on Peter Pan by the author of The Wicker King and The Weight of the Stars, Darling is set in present-day Chicago. Wendy is entranced by Peter, a boy who arrives at her window on her first night in the city and introduces her to the lost teens of Chicago’s underworld. However, as she finds out more about this new world, Wendy realises that Peter may not be all he seems, and that she might be in danger.
Wendy, Darling by A. C. Wise
J. M. Barrie wrote a postscript to Peter Pan that doesn’t always make it into printings of the book or productions of the play (although it did form the basis for a 2002 Disney sequel). In this short chapter, we see a grown-up Wendy putting her daughter Jane to bed, when Peter returns and he and Jane leave for Neverland. Wendy, Darling expands this, following Wendy as she travels back to Neverland to rescue her daughter and deal with the full implications of what happened there when she was a child. If you love Wendy, Darling, Wise has also written a companion novel, Hooked.
Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas
If you loved Aiden Thomas’s debut Cemetery Boys, you’ll enjoy his contemporary retelling of Peter Pan. Wendy is a teenage girl with a tragic past. Several years ago, she and her brothers John and Michael went missing in the woods, with Wendy being the only one to return. While Wendy cannot remember what happened in the time she went missing, she is haunted by the mystery of her past — a past that comes crashing into the present when she discovers a boy, Peter, who she believed only existed in her imagination.
Never Never by Brianna R. Shrum
Captain Hook is one of the most memorable characters from Peter Pan, and it’s not surprising that many retellings have focused on Pan’s famous nemesis. In Never Never, we follow a young Hook who is looking forward to growing up but decides to follow the mysterious Peter Pan to Neverland. There, Hook realises that he is trapped and that the only way for him to get home and return to his life is to defeat his enemy once and for all.
Girl Lost by Nazarea Andrews
First in the Neverland Lost series, Girl Lost follows Gwendolyn (or Gwendy, as she’s affectionately known), as she starts college, hoping to leave her tragic past behind her. Gwendolyn has had years of therapy to accept that the island she remembers from her childhood, and the strange boy Peter whom she met there, was never real — but when she meets Peter at her college, she realises that everything she has told herself for years is about to be called into question.
Never Ever by Sara Saedi
Set in New York, Never Ever tells the story of siblings Wylie, Josh, and Micah, who want to escape from their lives and the impending adult responsibilities and consequences that they have to deal with. When they meet Phinn, who takes them to a faraway island, they think they’ve found the way out that they’re looking for — but, as with many Peter Pan retellings, this new Neverland is darker than it initially seemed.
Neverland by Shari Arnold
Many Peter Pan retellings are dark, but some are uplifting and hopeful. In Neverland, we meet Livy, who is recently bereaved following her sister’s death. Livy isn’t sure she can move on, but when she meets Meyer, she realises that her life can’t stop because of the loss of her sister. Neverland deals with grief in a thoughtful and caring way and looks at how it’s possible to find the magic in life again after tragedy.
Darling Girl by Liz Michalski
Barrie wrote about Wendy’s descendants and their entanglement with Peter Pan, and this family connection is something explored in Michalski’s Darling Girl. Wendy’s granddaughter, Holly, is living a successful and happy life — until her daughter disappears. Knowing that Peter must be responsible, Holly fights to get her daughter back and reveal that Peter is not the hero that everyone knows from the stories.
Looking for more retellings of your favourite classic stories? Try our TBR service, where you can get book recommendations that suit your exact needs. If you want more Pan in your life, try 5 Contemporary Novels Inspired By Peter Pan.