Characters Driving Plot in Darling



By K. Ancrum

Rating: 5/5

Genre: Thriller/Young Adult

QUILTBAG Main Character: Yes

QUILTBAG Minor Character: Yes

Main Character of Color: Yes

Bechdel Test: Yes

Summary: Wendy Darling has just moved to Chicago, and things are not going great. After a fight with her parents, she ends up spending her first night in the city alone in her house with just her dog when a boy breaks in. Peter is charismatic, fun, and handsome, and Wendy is feeling rebellious. So when he invites her to an exclusive party, she accepts. His friend Tink isn’t too happy about it, telling Wendy she shouldn’t come. But Wendy is determined to go have a great time. The night quickly turns sour, as Peter and his gang of lost boys fly under the nose of Detective Hook and the rest of the CPD. Wendy soon discovers that things are not what they appear and maybe she should have heeded Tink’s warning. But it’s too late now, and the night is just beginning.

Let’s Get A Little Deep:

I’m a sucker for Peter Pan retellings. The original source material is problematic to put it very mildly. Maybe that is why I enjoy retellings of it so much, ones that give the story better nuance, that handle race and gender roles better, especially ones that make it queer as hell. So when I heard about Darling, I knew I’d have to check it out. I was not disappointed.

Effortlessly balancing tension, exposition, and world building, Darling tells an increasingly dark tale of what happens to boys who don’t want to grow up. Wendy is pulled into a world she doesn’t understand with rules that could mean life and death. While this book in the hands of a lesser author might have been cheesy or over the top, Ancrum instead spins a dizzyingly terrifying thriller that pulls you by the throat and won’t let go.

One of the ways she is able to create such a tense story is with intricate and complex characters. Because Wendy spends the majority of the novel confused and searching for answers, it is important that the characters both give answers and make more questions. The ebb and flow of Peter’s personality and mood swings, the way Tink seems both friend and foe, the way the lost boys both protect Wendy and also pull her deeper into the danger — all of this works together with the plot, leaving Wendy and the reader in suspense. 

The remarkable thing about the push and pull between characters and plot is that it never feels like the book doesn’t know exactly where it is going. There are small, barely noticeable moments between characters that end up having a significant impact on the story at large. By developing complex characters who both work for themselves and for others, Ancrum weaves an intricate story about good, evil, and the lines in between. Indeed, it is the very selflessness vs. selfish nature of all of the characters that lead to their victory or their defeat respectively.

Darling is an addictive read that I could not put down. It is a perfect summer thriller that I suggest you pick up now. If you do, let me know where you picked it up, and I will try to give that store a shout-out on a future review!

Thanks for going a little deep with me! I post reviews every other Thursday. Did you love Darling? Leave a comment telling me the wildest night you had as a teen. You can also find me on Instagram @booked.with.grace and on Twitter @gwasserst! Special thanks to Yasi (@ynbushehri) for editing my posts.

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