Splintered (Splintered, #1)
By: A.G. Howard
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: January 1st, 2013
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 picked Splintered up a few years ago purely because of the cover (and maybe, deep in my mind, a faint memory that Em had recommended it). I found, despite the love triangle, a solidly twisted Alice in Wonderland story, which fulfilled every desire I might have for a twisty, wacky, descriptively wonderful book.
Plus, I’m still not over the cover. I mean, as much as any cover can perfectly capture the story hidden inside it, this one comes close. I’m in love with the overly bright colors, the crazy amalgamation of flora and fauna, and the look in her eyes. Ok, I’m gonna stop gushing here, except to say that I may or may not have bought the entire series because I wanted those covers on my bookshelf.
Oh, and that the print inside said gorgeous covers is colored (Splintered has purple ink inside). Is that not wonderful?
I admit to not having read Alice in Wonderland, or even seen a movie version of it, until after having read this book (I have since read the original and seen the one with Johnny Depp, so there). So I’m not sure I’m the best person to assess how it worked with the original story–but, having actually read a few Alice retellings, my hunch was that it worked well. It fit the story more or less into a modern timeline, and did an excellent job of showing the craziness of Wonderland–all of the different creatures who inhabit it, all of the insane geography, and something of the magical potential of the place.
I also liked how Alyssa really does find her own path in Wonderland. I’ll be the first to admit that she’s not exactly an endearing character at the beginning–she’s whiny, and somehow pathetic in that she seems to have very little control over her own life. What little control she does have, is by killing the animals and plants that talk to her and turning them into art (although this is cool). But over the course of the novel, as she completes one task after the other, she really gets some confidence, although even at the end she’s somewhat hesitant to take charge, or even seemingly trust herself. I look forward to seeing whether she manages this or not in the rest of the series.
What I most loved was the description used in the novel. Howard does a wonderful job of painting a picture of Wonderland, albeit a crazy, almost overflowing one. I was wondering earlier why Alice in Wonderland pairs so well with a kind of Hot Topic-inspired alternative mode, but Howard pulls this off well. I could see Alyssa in striped tights and tutu-like skirts and eyeliner and fingerless gloves, and that inspired how I saw the rest of Wonderland.
What kept this book at a solid 4-star rating was the love triangle. I’m not a big fan of them anyways, and this one kept annoying me. Jeb, Alyssa’s human not-really-boyfriend, never really showed the love he professed to have, in a number of ways (plus, you know, the fact that he was dating Alyssa’s high-school nemesis didn’t earn him any points, especially not from Em). And Morpheus so obviously had a hidden agenda that I wanted to slap Alyssa upside the head until she noticed. It seemed like the reader is supposed to really like both of them, and maybe be really torn as to which Alyssa should be with. I personally thought she should ditch them both and find someone who really, genuinely cares about her–but maybe this will improve in the sequels?
Another complaint I had was that the ending felt as if it was too deliberate, maybe not exactly organic. Part of this is deliberate–Morpheus is leading Alyssa up to this big, dramatic, battle wherein she finally claims Wonderland, etc, and then it all goes to hell in a hand basket. I suspect that after rereading this book, I’ll see more foreshadowing than I did the first time around, so this is a minor complaint, but something about the ending felt a little off to me.
But in every other aspect, this book definitely earns all four of those stars. I find Splintered to be a clever, tight, yet innovative retelling of Alice in Wonderland. I fell in love with the description, and enjoyed being a part of Alyssa’s wild ride into semi-adulthood. I’m also excited to see whether the sequels can keep up the magic–at least they all have GORGEOUS covers!
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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.