Splintered by A.G. Howard
Release Date – January 1, 2013
Publisher Website - Amulet/Abrams
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 371 pages
My Rating- 3.5/5
**obtained for review from publisher via Book Expo America**
Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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.
This is not the Wonderland from your childhood. This Wonderland is dark, dangerous, and tinged with a gothic beauty. It brings to mind Tim Burton films, and original fairytales much more twisted than their current incarnations.
Creatively this novel is everything one could hope for. A fresh, unique take on the Wonderland tale complete with backstory and mythology that ties into the Lewis Carroll cannon wonderfully. It's this aspect of the story that kept me interested, and invested. The descriptions of Wonderland stand out most of all, as does A.G. Howard's writing that seems tailor made to fairytale stories.
While I loved almost everything else about the novel, it's the characters that I didn't quite connect with. I am not sure if it was because I fell in love with the world, and couldn't focus on the characters, but I was kept at a distance. I followed their journey as a casual observer rather than get attached. It meant the outcome of everything wasn't as high stakes as it should have been, and some of the tension was lost on me. However, the writing and world more than made up for this.
Alyssa is a young woman terrified of ending up like her mother - institutionalized and deemed crazy. Her family has a history of illness and it all comes back to an obsession with talking bugs, flowers, and Wonderland. Through the course of the novel she grows and changes. Wonderland changes her. It adds a wildness, more self assured nature to her actions and character.
Alyssa's wildness, and uninhibited behaviour is like a coming of age scenario. She's coming into herself and the person she is suppose to be. It's an awakening that allows her to take risks in other areas of her life. She's no longer that timid, scared girl who is constantly looking over her shoulder. It's great character progress and sets her up to be a different type of Alyssa in any subsequent books.
Jeb is a true knight in shiny armour. He's protective of Alyssa and there for her when she needs. It easy to see how Alyssa fell for him. He's not as flashy as Morpheus, but he is presented as a solid, dependable guy who wants the best for her.
Morpheus is as dangerous as he is seductive. He's got his own hidden agenda and it keeps the reader, and Alyssa on their toes. The question of whether or not he can be trusted is teased throughout the book, and it's one that even I grappled with. He was obviously influenced by Brandon Lee's character in The Crow and that made for a delicious visual, and his seductive nature drew me in, and yet I couldn't quite let my guard down and was relieved to see Alyssa was smart enough to do the same. With that said, there is something striking and unforgettable about him that entrances you. Alyssa's reaction to him is easy to understand.
A fantastical, fairytale inspired novel whose characters didn't quite connect with me. The world itself is darkly beautiful and one that I am looking forward to returning to when Unhinged is released. Jump down the rabbit hole, and see if this Wonderland is your cup of tea.