Here's the thing about "Peter Pan": It's all about the boys.
In every telling (and re-telling) of J.M. Barrie's classic story, it always comes down to the dudes. There's the titular Peter, of course. There's the ragtag collection of lost kids, all boys, who followed him one by one to Neverland. There's the terrible Captain Hook, and his (also all-male) pack of pirates. And even in twists on the tale, like the 1990s classic "Hook," the focus is on a grown-up Peter -- and his relationship with his son.
You'd be forgiven for forgetting that at the very beginning, when three children jumped out a window and followed Peter Pan to Neverland, it was all because of a girl.
Now, the time has come for Wendy Darling to get her due: "Wendy Darling," the first book in a new trilogy by Colleen Oakes, will finally tell the story of the girl without whom "Peter Pan" wouldn't exist. But what will a book about this unsung hero look like? MTV News caught up with the author to find out more.
MTV News: When I heard about this book, it really struck me that Wendy Darling is the one character in Peter Pan who always seems to get short shrift. After all these years, we still know so little about her. What drew you to her story?
Colleen Oakes: I'm really interested in side characters -- the first fairytale retelling that I did was called "Queen of Hearts," about the story behind that character from "Alice in Wonderland" -- and Wendy's story is one that has never been told. She has this shrinking violet role throughout "Peter Pan," and I thought, I definitely need to visit that.
MTV: She really is sidelined. It's always seemed like she's there for other, more important people to bounce off; she's the only girl, but she's treated like an archetype, like a scold or a mother figure.
Oakes: There are a lot of interesting ideas about gender roles in "Peter Pan." Before I write a retelling I definitely read the original cover to cover, and think about what's in there. When I read "Peter Pan," I was like, "Wow." There's so much that's interesting, like the way they do assume she's going to be their mother. Peter even says, "I'll be the father!" -- but in the next sentence, he says, "You'll be my mother too." I wanted to ask, what would be a woman's take on all this?
MTV: I'd imagine it's pretty different.
Oakes: My story is a little different, a little darker. It goes to places you wouldn't necessarily expect. I love Wendy as a character; even though she's a proper, good girl from the early 1900s, you don't know what's lurking beneath the surface.
MTV: Right. And obviously there's something going on there, when she's the first to follow a total stranger out the window at the start of the story!
Oakes: That's the question! Why would she do that? What would propel her to chase after this crazy adventure in the first place? Why would she go out a window with a boy she doesn't know-- and what are her feelings for Peter, and what feelings does Peter stir up in her?
MTV: So, why should we be paying more attention to Wendy? What makes her a hero, not just of this story but in general?
Oakes: Wendy is definitely different than the heroes we're used to seeing right now in YA. She's not a warrior, nor would she have any inclination to be. She has a lot of social boundaries, she's very polite, she goes to mass. She's a perfectly good girl who always does what her parents expect of her, until she's thrust into this almost feral world of Neverland, where her politeness serves no purpose. The question then is, what does a good girl do when thrust into a bad world, so to speak? How does she evolve from a girl who only did what her parents want, into a girl who's brave and takes risks and is really needed to save this world?
MTV: So Wendy is very much on the radar as a strong female character, but she's strong in a completely different way than, say, the Katniss Everdeens of the world.
Oakes: And I love those characters. But I also feel like it's interesting to explore the heroism of someone who's never going to use a sword. How does she overcome, and how do other traits come out to play in a big conflict, in a war: traits like kindness, gentleness, even politeness? How does she keep her brothers safe in this world where there are no rules and there are no parents, but without becoming the mother that everyone wants her to be? And at the same time, how does she deal with this boy who makes her feel things she's unfamiliar with, like risk, and lust.
MTV: Those things might be unfamiliar to readers of the original story, too.
Oakes: And nobody should go in expecting a Peter Pan story that's exactly what they've seen before. It's a retelling, but this is a story about Wendy's perspective and Wendy's experience. And it's about who she is and who she becomes. It's about how Wendy learns to be brave -- and what bravery looks like for her.
Wendy Darling will be released October 13.