Friday, December 13, 2013
Book 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.
I've been dying to read this book for over a year now, so let's just say that I had pretty big expectations when I started it. And although I definitely enjoyed Splintered, it wasn't everything I'd hoped it would be. I loved the deliciously creepy world of Wonderland and the gorgeous writing, but the plot was so slow and the romance was terrible.
What I liked: The world-building. Just wow. The author did a fantastic job of taking the story Carroll created and expanding on it and adding to it with great detail. She really did her research for this book and it shows - the world-building, the descriptions, it's all very well-done. I love how Splintered isn't a retelling of Alice in Wonderland. It's completely different: it takes the story of Alice in Wonderland and adds a new spin on it. This unique idea makes Splintered stand out from most YA retellings.
The world of Wonderland is so creepy and grotesque. I loved the nonsensical feel to it. It really is a darker version of Carroll's Wonderland, and even though it has its share of violence, it's written in such an elegant way that you can't help loving the descriptions and writing.
And Morpheus? Ooh, he was a great character. Although I don't really think there's a love triangle between Alyssa, Jeb, and Morpheus (Alyssa admits she's attracted to Morpheus, but she knows she's truly in love with Jeb) I'm totally going to be on Team Morpheus if the author decides to add his character to the romance in the sequel, Unhinged. Morpheus reminded me a lot of Loki in the Thor and Avengers movies, and that's probably a big reason why I was so in love with him. (What can I say? He's not evil...just misunderstood. ;)
What I didn't like: Jeb, the love interest. Oh, ick. He's a controlling jerk. Forget romance - he's not even that great of a friend to Alyssa! He doesn't believe in her or stick up for her, especially in the beginning. Even when he's in Wonderland and finally decides to believe it's all true, it still seems like he doesn't fully trust Alyssa to make decisions without his guidance. Most other reviewers seemed to dislike him too, and I can certainly see why.
I was also bored for about the first 100 pages, until Alyssa actually entered Wonderland. When I read the summary, it sounded like Alyssa entered Wonderland right away, but it took about a third of the book for the action to truly start. I thought there was too much backstory in the beginning, and it just didn't seem to flow well. It felt like a stereotypical YA paranormal at first, but I'm glad the story started moving and becoming interesting once Alyssa was in Wonderland.
Overall, I'm glad I read Splintered and fell in love with the enchantingly scary world of Wonderland. I didn't particularly connect with the characters besides Morpheus, and I disliked the romance and slow beginning, but the amazing world-building and gorgeous writing makes up for it. I'll probably be reading the sequel if my library gets it.
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars