Twisted Wonderland

 

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Splintered, by A. G. Howard
Series: Splintered book 1 of 3
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Amulet Paperbacks (February 18, 2014)
Grades: 8+
Genre: teen fantasy / romance

Umm, ok, all I can say is Wow! This is an amazing reimagining of the Alice in Wonderland tale. I admit, I passed on this book the first time it was brought to my attention. I am a bit of a Lewis Carroll nut since Alice in Wonderland was the first chapter book I read by myself. I find its weird mix of delight, childlike wonder, and terror a very hard thing for subsequent books to come close to matching. But since book three in the Splintered series has come out, I figured it might make a decent addition to our school library, I went ahead and bought it.

The story centers around a teen, Alyssa, on the verge of adulthood. Her life as the great great granddaughter of the non fiction inspiration for the Carroll story has not been terrific, but she gets by despite a Mother in an Insane Asylum, and the ability to hear bugs and flowers talking (she kills as many as she can). The book begins on the eve of Prom, and Alyssa having to go visit her Mom at the hospital (generally they are not called asylums here). Enter love interest number one: Jeb. Think hot teen skater / artist with lip stud and tanned skin. Alyssa has a long standing crush on Jeb that he does not seem to reciprocate. Things at the asylum go very very bad and Alyssa is faced with a choice. Prove to her Dad that her Mom is not crazy, or loose her to electroshock therapy. Enter love interest number two, Morpheus, the man of her dreams…literally. He is half moth, half tattooed goth with bat like wings, and jewels on his face that act as a kind of mood ring (the jewels change colors with his emotions). He promises Alyssa a way to fix her family’ curse. All she has to do is go down the rabbit hole.

There are aspects of this book that remind me of a creepy video game “Alice, the Madness Returns”. Especially the dark and twisted landscape, bloody violence, and the warped characters (the White Rabid instead of the White Rabbit for example). There were times when I felt a little more description would have been nice, not of clothing, or hats, or hair, but of the size and shape of the room so I could place the character on the stage so to speak. I know it is a trait of romances to leave things a little more open, but I still need to know more so characters’ movements in space make sense. And I never got a clear idea of what these wings looked like, floppy cloak one minute wrapped like a cocoon and shield the next? Are there bones if so do they only appear when they fly?

Parental notes… Not much for this age group. Nothing more than kissing happens and a lot of lust, and Ms. Howard solved the ick factor of a much older man chasing after Alyssa by a neat trick of personal Magic “we become the age in spirit and mind when we transform” so yay. It is a teen romance so be prepared for a love triangle, shattered hearts, talking about clothing/hair..a lot, and a sometimes week female protagonist that needs saving, but only after she has kissed both boys and melted inside… She redeemed herself in the end, but there were times I wanted to smack the kids and tell them to focus.

This is a fun gothic tale with action and romance, blood and loss. This is a story aimed at upper school girls and it is appropriate for that target audience. I will recommend this series for our library.