The Spy Who Never Grew Up by Sarah Rees is the fifth story in the short story complication Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love, edited by Trisha Telep. The Spy Who Never Grew Up is an odd mish-mash of old school espionage, a paranormal almost-romance, and – are you ready for this? – Peter Pan.
Six generations after the infamous Wendy, Ashley – Wendy’s great, great, great grandchild – finds herself whisked away to Neverland where she comes face to face with the thing that has haunted her family for generations: the boy who won’t grow up, Peter Pan himself. But Neverland has changed and Peter seems… older. Could it have something to do with his job working in Her Majesty’s Secret Service? Whatever happens, Ashley is in for an interesting experience as she learns to fly, explores the dying Neverland, and comes face to face with someone from Peter’s past who’s more than eager for revenge.
Now, considering this is a short story – less than thirty pages within the four hundred page book – there’s not a tonne to go into depth about. I can talk about the characters, but we all already know about Peter Pan: boyish charm, a naivety about almost everything, and an infinity for ‘thimbles’. The Lost Boys have all left Neverland, as have Tinkerbell and the pirates. The original character, Ashley, Wendy’s great, great, great granddaughter, is brash, jaded, and hateful of Peter’s friendly (for the most part) advances. She’s been told stories of Peter Pan’s insanity since she was a little girl because like it or not, Peter Pan always comes to collect what he believes is his: Wendy’s bloodline. She mentions more than enough times that her parents made her sleep with pepper spray under her pillow and how, if she ever has a daughter, she’ll make her sleep with a stun-gun under her pillow. Don’t get me wrong, the author completely ‘gets’ her characters. She makes them funny and clever and Peter’s even creepy when he wants to be, but for some, their over-the-top nature may leave you wishing they were kinder, gentler characters. Or, at the very least, had some kinder, gentler moments.
As far as locations go, Neverland is painted as a gruesome picture of a land tainted by unchanging time. The trees, grass, and flowers have all withered away, the Indians all died out (leaving Peter without Tiger Lily, his other favourite bloodline to tease and torment), and the water has become stagnant and unusable (a shame for the poor mermaids who became deformed monsters because of it). Of her time in Neverland, Ashley does nothing but bitch and threaten Peter to take her home or else some threat or another. She doesn’t even pretend to enjoy the adventures Peter takes her on until the last few pages of the book when they are sent, by the Queen of England herself, to destroy that certain someone from Peter’s past.
Now, why is Peter Pan a secret agent working for the Queen, you may ask? Well, the answer is… unanswered. It’s never really explained why Peter works for MI-6. Perhaps he took a job because he was bored with his life in the dying Neverland. Perhaps he took a job because he’s the perfect spy: young, athletic, and completely magical! Whatever the reason, the government of England has counted on him for a long time and it adds a pinch of originality and flare to this otherwise humdrum story of almost-romance.
My final thoughts on the short story, The Spy Who Never Grew Up, are that it’s an interesting concept to have Peter Pan working as a secret agent. More interesting than that is having Peter obsessing over Wendy’s bloodline; pining away long enough that he kidnaps granddaughter after granddaughter to try and fill his need for a mother. Ashley, as a character, might put you off as she is a teenage girl in an almost-romance story and, that in itself, is a whole new type of annoying character, but Neverland in its steady rate of decline is more than enough reason to see this story through to the end. If you’re looking for an interesting take on a classic story, The Spy Who Never Grew Up is a perfect choice. It’s short, it’s sweet, and it will give you more than enough happy thoughts to learn to fly (although pixie dust is not included).