Cover of Darling, featuring a pink rose on fire in front of a black background

About the Book

Title: Darling
Published: 2021

Cover Story: Flames of Passion
BFF Charms: Big Sister
Swoonworthy Scale: 0*
Talky Talk: Contemporary Retelling
Bonus Factors: Strong Female Characters, Twists
Anti-Bonus Factor: [REDACTED]
Relationship Status: Second Guessing that Swipe Right

Content Warning: Darling features suggestions of both physical and emotional violence.

Cover Story: Flames of Passion

I don’t exactly know why this cover makes me think of the word passion, but perhaps it’s the elements—the rose, the flame—that often indicate such an emotion. In this case, it’s not a good thing, however; this passion feels dangerous and out of control.

The Deal: 

Wendy Darling has just moved to Chicago with her parents. She knows no one, other than her online friend Eleanor, who she still has yet to meet—thanks to her overly concerned and strict mother and father. But then a boy, a very charming and attractive boy, literally stumbles in through her bedroom window with promises of parties and exciting people to meet. Wendy knows she shouldn’t follow him out into the night, but there’s something about Peter Pan that makes him nearly impossible to resist.

BFF Charm: Big Sister

BFF Charm Big Sister with Clarissa from Clarissa Explains It All's face

Wendy is a confident, daring individual with a level head on her shoulders, but even the smartest of folk can make rash decisions. And following Peter Pan, she quickly finds out, is one of the worst decisions she’s ever made. With every reveal of this book, I got more and more concerned for her safety, and I would have loved to be there to help her through it.

Swoonworthy Scale: 0*

When Wendy and Peter first meet, she’s immediately taken by his rakish good looks and winning smile. But the more she gets to know him—the real him—she sees behind the curtain and realizes that his facade is just that, and the truth of him is terrifying. (The asterisk is because the swoon actually starts out higher and goes way into the negative, and this is an average of the spectrum.)

Talky Talk: Contemporary Retelling

I love a good retelling, particularly when an author takes the familiar story and really makes it their own. Ancrum does exactly that with Darling; this is definitely not the sweet Peter Pan story we’re all most familiar with. But it also never feels completely at odds with the original, even though it takes such different (and dark) turns. Ancrum also excels at writing compelling characters. From Wendy to the Lost Boys she meets, each of the characters stands out, even if we only meet them for a short passage. They’re all so realized and dynamic.

It took me a minute to get into the book, but as soon as the sinister notes ramped up, I couldn’t put it down. I think my heartbeat sped up with every chapter.

Bonus Factor: Strong Female Characters

Three women on a beach holding hands in the air triumphantly

Wendy is impressive, yes, but the other two main female characters—Tinkerbelle and an indigenous young woman named Ominotago (there’s a small passage about Peter giving her a nickname that she hated before the story began … I’m sure we can all figure that one out)—are equally impressive in their own right. And the relationship they have with each other, once first impressions are moved past, is truly powerful.

Bonus Factor: Twists

A yellow road sign that says "plot twist ahead"

Ancrum truly surprised me with the twists in this book. Perhaps I didn’t read the synopsis carefully enough, or I just wasn’t expecting a Peter Pan book to go there, but the twists really did surprise me. In both delightful and creeps-inducing ways.

Anti-Bonus Factor: [REDACTED]

I can’t exactly say what the biggest anti-bonus factor of this book is, because spoilers, but I can say that there’s something about Peter that comes as quite a shock.

Relationship Status: Second Guessing that Swipe Right

You were quite fascinating. Book, and nothing like I expected. You have some great characteristics, but there’s a massive red flag that has me thinking I should have brought a friend along on our date, or at least made more concrete plans for an escape route.

Literary Matchmaking

Lost in the Never Woods

Aiden Thomas’s Peter Pan retelling has a similar sinister bent but with a bit more fantasy flair.

Stars (Wendy Darling #1)

Colleen Oakes’s book is another dark spin on the Peter Pan legend.

None Shall Sleep

Ellie Marney’s true crime book has similar charismatic-yet-scary characters and thriller vibes.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Imprint, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Darling is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband and their dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.