Thursday, December 25, 2014

Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard

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.

(taken from

My Rating: 4/5 Stars 
Talking to bugs? Now that truly sounds nightmarish. Ew. 

I'm a sucker for retellings, even though I usually end up disappointed. How could I not pick up a book with such a colorful cover and promising synopsis? Even the promise of a love triangle between a girl, one brooding boy, and one best friend (*yawn*) couldn't shut down my interest. Alice in Wonderland was one of my childhood favorites, and I couldn't wait to see it brought to life in a new light. 

Howard very clearly borrowed from the Tim Burton adaptation of the classic story. She presents the creepy, macabre underbelly of Wonderland, rather than a delightful place where a young girl might play. From zombie flowers to skeleton bunnies, various elements of the original tale are re-imagined in Alyssa's journey. 

Alyssa is quite the quirky heroine, with her multi-colored hair extensions and tendency to chat with daises or grasshoppers. I spent much of the novel trying to decide if I liked her or not. In the end, she was a likable (if a tiny bit crazy) girl. Even though she didn't stand out to me as an especially unique character, her intelligence and willingness to go to extreme lengths for her friends and family won my approval. 

How about the romance, you ask? Meh. Jeb is your classic best friend, and he takes the protective boyfriend caricature to a whole new level. Seriously, Jeb, calm down. Morpheus, while strange and more than a little unsettling, was at least interesting and unique. I don't even know that I can choose a side in the love story because I was fairly apathetic about the whole thing. Mostly I just loved Howard's descriptions of the characters, especially the more fantastical ones like Morpheus. 

Overall, I had a fun time immersing myself in this reinvented Wonderland. As a lover of fantasy, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to explore this new realm with an enjoyable set of characters. Howard's writing makes it easy to tumble into the rabbit hole right along with Alyssa. I'm anxious to get my hands on the sequel and to see how this intriguing tale unfolds.