Capt. Hook: The Adventures of a Notorious Youth
by J.V. Hart
I loved this book. I freakin’ loved this book.
I’ll be honest – I’ve rarely given Captain Hook much thought. I’m not a particular fan of the Peter Pan story, and most depictions of its famous villain have left me rather indifferent. Jason Isaac’s incredible 2005 portrayal was a notable exception – but exactly that, an exception. So Hook in general? Meh.
All this has changed due to Capt. Hook: The Adventures of a Notorious Youth. This is the story of Hook before he was hook – back when he was merely James Matthew, the bastard child of a British Lord, and a new student at Eton.
James is at once prideful yet sympathetic. His desire for some sort of recognition from his estranged father is heartwrenching, while his increasingly sinister coping methods certainly demonstrate a dark interior. It’s this contrast that makes young James such an intriguing character – we want to like him. We do like him, actually, but also we’re afraid for and of him.
Following James from his beginnings at Eton, his dealings with upperclassmen and their sadistic initiations, his rise through rank amongst his peers, and his eventual departure to the sea – it’s all fascinating from beginning to end. Mostly this story takes place in the “real” world, although James does carry just a little of the supernatural about him, and we’re given to expect these supernatural elements may come even more into play later in his life, which is the books one great shortcoming – it ends too soon. Our appetite is whetted, but we’re not given insight into just how James discovers Neverland, nor the origins of his feud with Peter Pan. In fact, at the time of the story’s end, it’s still difficult to picture this youth – dispite his dark inclinations – becoming a true monster. Anti-hero, maybe, but not the monster that Captain Hook is so often portrayed. But this is what sequels are for, and I’ve just learned that Capt. Hook: The Journey To Neverland is due out any day now – topping swank news indeed.
Capt. Hook is generally listed as a children’s/young adult book, which is unfortunate. Not only because there is some level of brutality – James’ own fascinations with guillitines and deadly spiders are nothing compared to the floggings and mutinees – or that the humor is sometimes quite British and dry (thus adding a wonderfully victorian flair to the tale), but mostly because no adult should feel afraid to pick this up. It’s an ageless story about one of the most fascinating yet under-appreciated (in my case, anyways) villains in literary history. And I’m literally chomping at the bit for the sequel to arrive.