What if? They’re only two little words but they are some of the most powerful in the English language. “What if?” changes everything that went before and allows something completely new to happen. In Straight On Till Morning, Liz Braswell uses these words to imagine a world where Peter Pan never took Wendy to Neverland. Instead, what if Captain Hook took Wendy?
[Warning: My review of Liz Braswell’s Straight On Till Morning: A Twisted Tale contains some spoilers!]
Peter Pan: a classic tale
We all know the classic tale of Peter Pan and Wendy. Peter Pan hears Wendy’s stories about his adventures and is so enamored with himself in the tales that he brings her to Neverland to be a mother to him and the other lost boys. It’s a story that has been done many times.
Now Disney is getting ready to release a live-action remake of their classic animated movie from 1953. If Peter Pan and Wendy follows the pattern of the other recent Disney remakes it will be a more or less faithful reproduction of the old movie with just a few additions to bring it up to a two-hour running time.
But all the best remakes should bring something truly new to the table. Which was all a big lead-up to Liz Braswell’s take on the Peter Pan story, Straight On Till Morning. Straight On Till Morning takes the opening of Peter Pan, but twists it. Braswell writes her twisted tale with the assumption that Wendy travels to Neverland with Captain Hook instead of Peter Pan. And that one little twist changes everything.
Straight on Till Morning has a new and refreshing twist
In Braswell’s tale, Peter Pan still loses his shadow in a tussle with the loveable Nana and Wendy does tuck it away for him to return. But after four long years, Pan still hasn’t returned and Wendy is getting desperate. She doesn’t fit in with the other girls. Her brothers have gone off to school and she’s stuck at home. Her mother has handed off all the responsibility of raising her brothers and running the house to Wendy while she goes off to socialize.
Wendy chaffs against her confines but in London at the turn of the last century, there isn’t much she can do. Then the unthinkable happens. Her parents find her stories of Peter Pan that she’s written down and instead of being proud of her writing skills and encouraging her, they’re punishing her. She’s to be sent away to Ireland to be a governess for five boys she’s never met.
Instead of giving into despair Wendy forms a plan. She will go to Neverland and have her adventures. If Peter won’t come for her then she’ll go to him. Using his shadow for trade, Wendy manages to contact Captain Hook and barter for her passage to Neverland and home again.
Captain Hook gives Wendy more than she bargained for in this twisted tale
Wendy makes her deal with Hook knowing full well that it wasn’t right. But she was desperate and she thinks she’s smart enough to trick Hook. But he’s a pirate with countless years of making underhanded deals. Not only does he trick Wendy, but he reveals that he wants Pan’s shadow so that he can destroy Neverland. Things already look bad at this point, but Wendy doesn’t give up. She manages to make it to Neverland and begins looking for Peter to warn him about Hook’s plan.
Wendy quickly learns that Neverland isn’t as idyllic as she thought it was. It’s a land created by dreams, but not all dreams are good. And sleeping children have little control over their dreams. As Wendy faces one challenge after another she finds out there’s more to her than she thought too. But is she enough to save Neverland?
A true friendship between Wendy and Tinkerbell
One of the best things to come out of Braswell’s changes is the difference in Wendy and Tinker Bell’s relationship. It starts out in the same place, with Wendy completely enchanted with the little fairy and Tinker Bell ridiculously jealous of Wendy.
But without the interference and distraction of Peter Pan’s presence, the two have to work together. And as they work together they grow to respect and eventually even like each other. It was beautiful to see what these two were about to accomplish together once they stopped viewing each other as two-dimensional archetypes and started seeing each other as complete human (and pixie) beings.
I had an interesting insight while reading Straight On Till Morning. Everything in Neverland comes from the dreams of humans or are reflections of humans. I think that Tinker Bell is a reflection of Wendy in many ways. She is the deep, hidden id of Wendy’s psyche that she’s had to hide for so long in order to be a “proper lady” for her family. Once Wendy is forced to spend some time with herself she is able to appreciate herself and grow into a strong young woman. Even if she isn’t the kind of woman her parents want her to be.
Straight On Till Morning is all about Wendy finding the strength to be who she really is inside. And finding that who she is inside is more than enough to attain all her dreams if she is just willing to reach for them. Looking at it this way, Braswell’s twisted tale becomes more than just an exciting adventure, it becomes an empowering tale of self-discovery.
Straight on Till Morning is an exciting tale both outside and in
For those who just want to read Straight On Till Morning as an adventurous tale, Braswell doesn’t disappoint. There is danger, adventure, close calls, and excitement to spare. For those who are looking for something a little deeper, Braswell doesn’t disappoint them either. Wendy’s journey from a lonely, aimless little girl to a strong, confident young woman is emotional and inspiring without being boring. This is a movie that Disney should make.
My Rating: 9/10
Straight On Till Morning by Liz Braswell is available now! Are you interested in reading it? Are you excited about Peter Pan and Wendy coming to Disney+? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord. And if you haven’t already, check out our review of Almost There, another Twisted Tale!
Book Review: Almost There: A Twisted Tale by Farrah Rochon