There are generally three things I love to read about; Ancient Rome, magic castles, and Alice’s adventures in Wonderland (be it the classic or a newly imagined take on it). Imagine my delight when I was browsing amazon.com at work (shh) and happened upon Splintered by A.G. Howard. Based on the description it promised to be a fun, slightly sinister take on the Alice in Wonderland adventures. Based on the reviews it promised to be the best book I’ll ever read (not so, but not half bad). What really sold me on it was the author page, er, the author herself. A.G. Howard “hopes her darker and funkier tribute to Carroll will inspire readers to seek out the stories that won her heart as a child.” Great! The Alice stories are classics and every teen should read them without being forced to do so. Any author whose motivation is to aspire people to read more classics is a-okay in my book. Not to mention she enjoys perusing 18th Century graveyards in her spare time. She. sounds. awesome.
It’s also clear that she is a genuine lover of Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass, Splintered takes some liberties but explains them in such a way that I’m not sure whose story to believe, Howard’s or Carroll’s. She has done her research and crafted a great story that is somehow whimsical and dark at the same time. I was drawn in by the cover, encouraged by the author (who, based on 2 short paragraphs from her amazon author page, I would like to befriend), and convinced by the second chapter that I had stumbled upon something great.
Splintered by A.G. Howard
Alyssa has always been plagued by Alice in Wonderland, rumor has it that her ancestor, Alice, was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s classic story. The kids at school constantly make fun of her for that reason (although I can’t see why) and she allows it to ruin her life (I would personally be quite proud). Her mother, Alison, was institutionalized years ago for talking to flowers and malevolently chasing butterflies – a curse that has been passed down from Alice herself. Now Alyssa lives with her doting father, surrounded by the objects of her crazy mother, and the ever increasing fear that she will be submitted to the same fate. Unfortunately, her fear is justified.
It started when she got her period – with puberty came boobs, boys, and the ability to talk to insects and plant life. That ability is Alyssa’s darkest secret, one she has never told anyone about. Not her dad, not her mom, not even her best friend Jeb (not that he would listen anyway, now that he’s dating the most popular girl in school aka Alyssa’s arch nemesis *sigh*). She has almost convinced herself that the voices are all in her head when she realizes that her mother can hear them too. After that Alyssa finds herself on the trail to Wonderland in effort to set things right and break the family curse.
Moments after Alyssa has stepped through the looking glass Jeb bursts into her room and jumps in after her, very heroic-like, plunging them both down the rabbit hole. There they meet Morpheus, the moth-man that had been haunting Alyssa’s dreams since she was a little girl. He, along with all the other characters of Wonderland (albeit slightly more sinister versions of themselves), accompany Alyssa and Jeb as they travel across Wonderland and attempt to clean up the mess the original Alice left behind. There they encounter the sea of tears, the garden of talking flowers, the tea-party stuck in time, the vicious bandersnatch, and of course the Red Queen (among others), not realizing all the while that someone is using them as pawns in a giant (and not quite metaphorical) chess game.
It was all quite clever the way the author meshed Alice’s classic stories into one terrifying yet beautiful Wonderland. The story itself was very smart, A.G. Howard clearly pulled her inspiration from Lewis Carroll but managed to make it very fresh and a touch more gothic. Overall I really loved the book, I loved figuring out how the classic story provided the backdrop, I loved that the characters were not clearly divided into good and evil, I loved that it made me want to revisit the original stories. There was just one problem: it’s a teen book. It’s filled with teen romance that was more ridiculous and hard to believe than Alyssa’s ability to talk to tulips.
Let’s start with Alyssa, overall I liked her, she shows maturity when dealing with her mother’s mental illness and living with a father who isn’t ready to let go. She has a lot of baggage and she handles it well. However, when it comes to her romantic feelings she may as well be a preteen girl. She acts like this cool skater chick but it’s really only an effort to impress her friend Jeb (something I actually did when I was 13, but definitely not 18). She also hates his girlfriend and doesn’t make any effort to hide it, both girls act super catty and Jeb would probably be better off without either of them.
Unfortunately Jeb has what I like to refer to as Edward-syndrome. He is entirely too perfect; he’s bad-boy hot with a charming good-boy personality, and he always says exactly what Alyssa wants to hear. It’s glaringly obvious from page one that they’re going to develop feelings, er, act on the feelings they already have (and are doing a terrible job at hiding). When they finally do kiss it’s followed by a lot of grinding and leg-wrapping that goes just a smidge too far. They fill any awkward silences by blurting out really cheesy pick-up lines that were more smirk inducing than they were sexy. Honestly it was a bit sickening.
Weird teenage romance aside, this as a great book with (mostly) great characters, a thought provoking plotline, and a cool flashback to a classic tale.
It’ll leave you wondering which story is the real story.