Hooked by A.C. Wise
(Titan Books, 2022)
Reviewed by Susan Peak
The Peter Pan story has fascinated many people since it was first written as a play in 1904 (it was published as a book in 1911). There have been several films of the book itself, and films which took the ideas further such as Hook (1991) which starred Robin Williams; there have been other books set in the story-world since 1987 (earlier work was always centred on the original story, probably for copyright reasons). Wikipedia has an interesting article on ‘works based on Peter Pan’, and a substantial amount of Peter Pan fanfic can be found on the main www.fanfiction.net site and on tvtropes.org. So, A.C. Wise is writing in a well-established tradition in her book, Hooked.
This is the second of her books set in the Peter Pan world; this concentrates on Captain Hook while her first book was about Wendy and her daughter Jane (Wendy Darling). The earlier book is extensively referenced so it’s not necessary to have read it before reading Hooked. The book is mainly set in London in 1939, with many flashbacks to past times both in London and in Neverland.
A.C. Wise’s book is distinctive in three particular respects. The first is that she looks at the dark side of Neverland and Peter Pan, and she makes a convincing case that there is such a thing. There is a gothic quality to this book, as the reader is shown how life in Neverland has a Groundhog Day quality, with events being repeated endlessly. This is especially so for Captain Hook, who endlessly dies at Peter Pan’s hands; in fact, we realise, he is traumatised. He’s a robust character and does cope, including with the transition to a later London than the time he knew (this, rather cleverly, both avoids complications and allows interaction with Jane). But he can never find peace.
The second is her very reflective writing style with a lot of inner narration by the characters of their emotional states. This is especially so for Captain Hook as the central character, but we get a lot of Jane’s view of things and some at least of Wendy’s. This means that, in a 331-page book, there is not a great deal of action and the story itself is rather slow-paced.
The third distinctive aspect is that Peter Pan does not appear at all, although we see his influence in Hook’s memories.
The book opens with Captain Hook as an old man, on his own, in London, reflecting on his many experiences of drowning. He’s haunted by Samuel, a crew member who had died a few years earlier, then he senses a connection to Neverland and the crocodile that hunts him still. The story then moves on to Jane, starting to re-experience Neverland while being in London, training as a doctor. It’s clear that, despite their attempts to free themselves of Neverland, a connection still remains, and Wendy also feels this, though less intensely. The scene is quickly set, as is the main aim of the plot: to somehow close off all connection with Neverland.
Relationships in this book are key. There is the relationship between Captain Hook and Samuel, the one member of the crew who is with him when they flee Neverland. Then there is the relationship between Jane and Captain Hook as they realise they are linked through their connection to Neverland, and through the growing danger that they both now sense. And then there is Wendy, somewhat of a background character here, who has a difficult relationship with both of the other two. She has promised honesty to Jane, for example, but appears not to be keeping her promise. Yet Jane needs help as she tries to understand what is happening, and the nature of Neverland.
I found this book to be very engaging and readable and would recommend it.