Series: Splintered #1
Published by Abrams on 2013-01-15
Genres: Young Adult
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This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now. When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.
I adore Alice in Wonderland. I have seen and read many different versions, and I never pass up an opportunity to enjoy a new one. Reviewers have been raving about Splintered ever since it was published at the beginning of last year, and it had been sitting on my wish list for far too long. A word of warning: if you thought Tim Burton’s Alice was dark or too gruesome, Splintered may not be for you. Howard’s world is bleak and terrifying and quite creepy; but reading it was like sampling a hundred different deserts from a bakery window.
All the Wonderland elements are here, but they may not be what you remember from your childhood. This is a very dark, very creepy Wonderland, with death around every corner, and nightmarish creatures taking the place of Wonderland’s zany inhabitants. The whole gang is here, The Red Queen, the White Rabbit, the mad tea party and so on, but they are very different from Carroll’s original story. The descriptions are rich and delicious, and story overflows with fascinating and magical encounters. Surprises pop up everywhere, and watching Alyssa wade through the mystifying Wonderland is thrilling and stressful.
One of the downsides of this book is that there is a mildly upsetting love triangle. This is one of a very short list of books where I prefer the guy she’s almost certainly NOT going to end up with, and that upsets me. I’m usually tracking with the winner, fully supporting their relationship. Not so much this time. Jeb, Alyssa’s best friend and forever secret crush whom she is almost definitely going to end up with is a CONTROL FREAK. Good grief I wanted to smack him for half the book. I mean, sure, he had these sweet moments, but he was always bossing Alyssa around and speaking for her, even though she’s the awesome magic one and he’s nothing special. It was very irritating.
On the other hand, you have my preference, Morpheus. I’m not saying he’s the perfect choice (he does have mildly evil tendencies after all) but I certainly liked him more than Jeb. And Morpheus is way more interesting than Jeb. Jeb just clomps around and is all “I tell everyone what to do” and junk, and Morpheus is over here being like
Granted, he is manipulating Alyssa for his own ends, but STILL. He does something pretty big and selfless at the end. And his selfless act was a product of his dynamic character, whereas we all expected Jeb to do something selfless cause that’s his archetype. AKA Morpheus is more interesting. And awesome. And mysterious. And seductive. But for real.
So fingers crossed that Alyssa realizes how lame Jeb is and how insanely amazing Morpheus is.
Recommended for fans of Alice in Wonderland, especially if you like your stories dark with a side of creepy.