How a Peter Pan Story Reminds Readers of Jesus

The cover caught my eye. Big Ben. Green, yellow, and blue hues. Silhouettes of flying people. Anything with a wisp of Peter Pan piques my inner child’s interest.

So naturally, Kara Swanson’s Dust caught my attention.

A Quick Summary

19-year-old Claire Kent grew up in a foster home with her twin brother, Conner. Only now, Conner has been missing for the last six years.

When a videotape points to London, Claire sells her (meager) worldly possessions and takes off in search of him.

Having never fit in, Claire’s brother is the only thing that matters to her.

To make matters worse, she has a skin condition in which her fingers shed dusty flakes any time her emotions go out of check.

Peter Pan is stuck in London, desperate to return to Neverland.

Tiger Lily, his faithful friend, sticks by him, lending him solid advice when Peter gets a bit too off-kilter.

Things are off with the Lost Boys and Captain Hook (who are also grounded in London), and what’s worse is Peter is aging.

But he’s confident there’s a solution. There is one person who can set things to right again: Claire Kent.

When Claire hears rumors of Peter Pan having stolen her brother, she swears her hatred of the boy who refuses to grow up.

What follows is a slow-burn adventure about believing in the impossible, embracing maturity, and choosing to hope—when all seems lost.

On the Style

I borrowed the audiobook from Hoopla (a wonderful free app if you’re part of a participating library).

At first, the story feels a bit slow.

Alternating first-person chapters between Claire and Peter help, but Claire’s chapters take some time to pick up pace.

Claire is so much inside her head. We get her internal commentary on nearly every event she navigates.

Swanson is passionate about mental health, so it makes sense we get a bounty of Claire’s internal life—including her battles with anxiety and hopelessness.

Peter’s chapters, on the other hand, were spankingly delightful. Several reviews on Amazon complain about his annoying personality and irresponsibility and flat-out selfishness.

(Many of these reviews are written by self-admitting non-fans of Peter Pan.)

Contrastingly, I found Peter’s character perfectly executed. He is the charm of the story. Not only is his character appropriately charming, but he is also appropriately averse toward responsibility.

This is J.M. Barrie’s original character, and Swanson nails it.

But Swanson doesn’t write a flat character. Rather, she thoughtfully explores the distinction between childlikeness and childishness.

Yet she takes her time, stays true to her characters, and avoids being didactic.

She writes an incredibly powerful scene of hope colliding with depression, light lancing the darkness, and the fight for what is good, true, and beautiful. (You’ll just have to read it to find out which scene 😉 )

I encountered Jesus in this scene. In our ugliest moments—where we are so terrified of our own darkness—He is unafraid, sitting with us at the cost of Himself, reminding us of Light. Truth. Reality.  

A Cliff-Hanger Ending

Dust is the first book in a duology, so readers should prepare for scores of unanswered questions.

I’m less than halfway through the sequel Shadow and am finding it equally (if not more so), satisfying.

The pace has picked up, and Swanson maintains the literary quality that made the first book so worthwhile.

One Final Note

While Dust isn’t marketed as a Christian YA fantasy (even though published by Christian company Enclave), the story is redemptive.

Dust reminds me a little of Jesus’ parables. No, it’s not an allegory. It’s more of a fairytale. But like all good stories, it sounds echoes of Truth.

As C.S. Lewis noted, “Sometimes fairy stories say best what needs to be said.”

I hope to see more stories written and published that do the same.

Thank you, Kara Swanson, for a journey back to London…and Neverland  It’s been quite an adventure.

Nearly a Month Later…

I finished Shadow a few weeks ago, and I am still thinking about that story. It’s not often a story lingers like that.

Wow. These might be some of my favorite books from the year. They are magical. I never knew a book about growing up could be so beautiful.

The sequel is even better than the first. It delivers everything readers want and then some.

I can’t wait to see more from this author. In the meanwhile, I recommend adding these books to your latest shopping cart 🙂

Photo Credit: Amazon

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