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This is entirely [profile] bookelfe's fault, because a little while ago she did a post on the terrifying profusion of YA high school AU versions of things that have been coming out lately. Things like So Shelley, which is Byron, Keats, and Shelley committing hijinks in a U.S. high school, or Falling for Hamlet, which is exactly what you think it is.

And the one on her list that seemed most cracktastic to me was Another Pan, in which Peter Pan is a hot supernatural gang leader at a ritzy Manhattan private school who is seducing Wendy and searching for-- I am not making this up-- the lost Egyptian secrets to immortality.

It is the sequel to Another Faust (which would be why the school is called the Marlowe School).

So, laughing hysterically the whole way, I went to the library, discovered that the book was sitting right there, checked it out, brought it back, and spent a few days cackling every time I looked at it. Today I read it, and the most surprising thing happened.

You guys-- I can't believe I'm saying this; something may have gone wrong with the karmic balance of the universe and/or me-- people, this is a completely reasonable and fairly proficient YA fantasy novel. It reminded me highly of Rick Riordan. It also-- I can't believe I'm saying this either-- although it is nowhere near as good-- it reminded me vaguely of Frances Hardinge.

It isn't even a paranormal romance. Because while there is a romance, it is completely and entirely not the point of the plot. It's like fourth or fifth down on the list of subplots.

The deal is that Wendy Darling and her younger brother John are faculty brats at a school full of rich kids, and their father is an Egyptologist who can't get tenure anywhere because he keeps babbling about unorthodox and poorly attested mythology, which is why he's teaching high school. But because he is personally liked by his old professors, and because the school and its students have more money than God, and because no one cares about the things he thinks are critically important to his research, the British Museum sends over some artifacts (not considered terribly valuable) so the school can have a little exhibition and he can teach an archaeology class. Among the things they send is a copy of something called The Book of Gates, which claims to be a text telling you how to find five mummies of people who died with horrible unresolved grudges. If you mix the dust of all the mummies together, you become immortal, but they're all in a terrible netherworld ruled by a powerful death goddess and guarded by horrible beasts.

Peter turns up on the mummy-hunt and figures the Darling kids are his door in to exhibit access, especially since John is desperately trying to become a social success in his first year of Terribly Rich High School, and Wendy thinks Peter's hot.

The thing that makes this book actually work is simple. Kindly take a moment to imagine what a Peter Pan would be like who knows, with absolute, bone-deep solidity, that if he accomplishes this one thing, he will be eternally himself, with the network of Lost Boys he's built up, with everything he is intact forever.

And if he does not do this one thing, he will grow old, and become human, and die.

... pretty creepy, huh? Yeah. He is. And the book takes it for all it is worth. He has all the heartlessness and charm of Barrie's original, all the ruthlessness, all the smarts, all the inability to remember or care about anything that doesn't affect him and his interests directly.

But the alternative to working with him is the triumph of a massively grudge-holding goddess of death who's going to take out anything around The Book of Gates and make the school property contiguous with Hell. Not an easy decision. (And you see why I said it isn't a romance.)

This is not a spectacularly good book. The prose is only solid, and there are maybe a few too many threads, and one too many subsidiary villains, and I am not sure there should have been any romance involved at all. Also there is some plot-coupon-type racing around to find mummy parts, and it's odd how Wendy keeps sitting down and sussing out in one session riddles Peter's had a lot of brilliant people working on for decades. But the creepy is creepy, the portrait of John as a kid who desperately wants to be some kind of cool and isn't making it is nuanced, the adults are as three-dimensional as the teenagers, and some things about the ending are nicely ambiguous. Given that this should by all rights have been a review I spent pointing and laughing, I am really very pleasantly surprised.

I actually unironically want to read Another Faust now. On the title page of this one it says 'Book Two of Another Series', and I laughed, and I know I was meant to and I appreciate the joke. If Daniel and Dina Nayeri, who are apparently that oddest of writing combinations, a brother-sister collaboration, want to keep this sort of thing going indefinitely, they can for all of me.


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