Splintered by A.G. Howard.
Page Count: 371.
Published: January 1, 2013.
Published by: Amulet Books
Source: Special Edition finished copy received at BEA from publisher. Thanks, Amulet!
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.
The blurb for this novel claims "grotesque madness" and on that it certainly delivers. Howard has taken the classic story and given it a new side that further explores the dark elements of the original tale while also giving it its own life and conflicts. I must say that I didn't love every aspect of this re-imagining, but there were plenty of elements that I did enjoy.
I was greatly impressed by the twisted version of Wonderland Howard has created. The imagination this world clearly took is astounding, as Howard has come up with many interesting elements. Her take on having Alyssa "undo" the things that the original Alice left wrong was creative and a fun play on the original story. The imagery created was absolutely wonderful to read, as it was richly described and really quite exciting to follow. This was probably the aspect of the novel that most drew me in and kept me entertained because I thought the creative twists and the world Howard created were the strongest elements.
When it came to characters, I quite enjoyed Alyssa and Jeb. They both felt like genuine, emotional characters with strengths and faults, wants and fears. Not only was their friendship/something more pretty enjoyable to watch unfold, but Alyssa's family complications were also very explored in a very interesting way. Her strained relationship (almost non-relationship) with her mother was captivating and heartbreaking to watch, but well developed. However, in terms of the last main character, I was not impressed by Morpheus until near the end (though many others love him deeply, so this is largely personal preference). He really just came off as more creepy and invasive than appealing and seductive, which I think is what a lot of others see in him. I don't see the attraction at all, nor did I love his character for most of the book. I did come around on the "interested" side by the end, but still not the "attracted."
I also felt like many of the minor characters, while often extremely interesting, were not developed enough to leave a lasting impression beyond the strange way they fit into Wonderland. I understand that in a story like this, a large cast of characters certainly makes sense and fits well, but I often felt like I was just getting to know a few interesting side characters when suddenly their parts were finished and they were gone from the story. I'm definitely hoping that some of this wide cast makes further appearances in the next two installments because they added a certain something fun and creative to the story and I'm very interested in seeing more!
Overall, this was certainly an imaginative and wildly creative Wonderland re-imagining. While I didn't love all the aspects and completely don't understand the appeal of one of the points of the love triangle, I did enjoy the main character, the complex and well developed world in which she lands, and the crazy side characters that make it so unique.