I was that kid—the one who loved fairy tales and imagined herself as the heroine, the sidekick (okay, I didn’t do much Disney as a kid so I had to make those up), and occasionally as the villain (when the protagonist was just too meh to be interesting). Still, there were a few that I just couldn’t get into. The Wizard of Oz was one. Peter Pan was another. Well, when someone did a great job of turning the former into a fabulous YA retelling, I had to give the latter a shot, too. Right?
Problem was, I was certain I’d be disappointed.
I mean, we are talking about the immature, cocky, selfish brat otherwise known as Peter Pan, right? That one? Of course, I’d hate it. Then again, someone had made Dorothy something other than a whiny brat, so… maybe?
And at least it had a fabulous cover. I mean, seriously, check out this cover of Dust—a Peter Pan retelling.
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Can this Retelling Make Me Love a Book I Never Liked?
Well, I don’t know if I’ll ever like the original Peter Pan, but this book… oh boy!
Kara Swanson skillfully—almost magically, in fact—weaves a believable tale of… Sorry. I have to do it. It’s true. Faith. Trust. Pixie dust!
Without ever referring directly to Jesus (and really, this is one book where I think that was a solid developmental choice), Swanson dives into this tale and shows both what a lack of faith does, how our actions can influence someone else’s faith, and what happens when we finally grasp at that faith once more. In a beautiful, symbolic picture of faith in the Christian life, she reminds us of Where our faith comes from and why we need to value and trust it.
Though she never said anything about it, I couldn’t get that scripture in Matthew about the mustard seed out of my mind. Faith is powerful—both its existence and the lack thereof. And throughout Dust, Claire’s interactions with Peter Pan show this.
In this book, Trust is just as powerful.
Over and over Claire puts trust in all the wrong things, and as a result, she’s conflicted at every turn. There’s a solid lesson in this illustration. However, it could easily be misconstrued as promoting the idea that we need to trust ourselves or our hearts to guide us. I don’t think that’s what the author means at all, but of the three strong elements, this one was the easiest to “get wrong” so to speak.
The truth, however, is that well-placed trust in the One who is truly trustworthy is fertile soil for that faith. Swanson demonstrates how easy it is to grow the wrong thing if one isn’t careful and all without a single hint at “teaching a lesson.” Instead, she uses excellent storytelling to show what she hopes to convey.
Pixie dust—a metaphor?
Perhaps for the transforming power of Jesus’ blood? One can’t help but see parallels. All through the story, that blood has the power to save or destroy—all based on darkness and light. Peter Pan helps her see why she needs to turn to Light and reject darkness. In the process, Claire’s humanity still affects how she sees things and how she uses that dust.
Did Swanson do it? Did she make me like Peter Pan?
She made me love her rendering of him. Every objection I’ve ever had was addressed, not necessarily ironed out and tied with a neat bow, but definitely solved. Well written, imaginative, relatable, and even the present tense writing was mostly bearable! That’s some skillful storytelling.
Recommended for lovers of Peter Pan and those who don’t alike. Not recommended for those who don’t enjoy speculative fiction featuring magical people and worlds.