Series: Splintered # 1
Published by Amulet Books on January 1, 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.
Splintered is a dark retelling of Alice in Wonderland. The story is every bit as captivating as the book cover, which was the first thing that captured my attention from this debut author. A.G. Howard has a wild and vivid imagination. Everything that she describes – colors, sights , sounds, emotions, sensations – you can almost feel yourself, as when Alyssa, a descendant of Alice Liddell, describes “moans and wails rattling my spine.”
When we first meet Alyssa, she is engaged in her very normal hobby of collecting insects. I can relate to this; I enjoyed catching bugs when I was young. Unlike Alyssa, however, I had a more friendly relationship with them, and I was not compelled to stick pins in them to stop them from whispering to me.
This is not the worst of Alyssa’s problems, as her mother is locked away in insane asylum, and Alyssa knows it’s just a matter of time until the madness captures her, too. So she does the only rational thing: down the rabbit hole. But wait! She’s got a companion in the form of her best friend/long-time crush, Jeb, the archetypal good guy. When Alyssa gets to Wonderland, she meets the strange and sensual Morpheus, the perfect counterpoint to Jeb. Morpheus also happens to have a mysterious connection to Alyssa. The two share a great rapport, at various times playful, biting, and seductive. So who’s it going to be – the good guy or the bad boy? Well, of course, you’re going to have to find out for yourself. But I’ll tell you that I’m always a sucker for the good guy, and Jeb had my vote even before he told Alyssa, “No matter what happens, we’ll find each other again, You’re my lifeline. You always will be.” How can you not love that??
When all of the secrets are revealed near the end of the book, it’s done in an extended bit of expository dialogue between Alyssa and Morpheus. He asks her questions to which he already knows the answers, she responds (essentially explaining it to us), and he continually prompts her with comments like, “Go on,” until there is nothing left to explain. This is a perfect example of, “Show, don’t tell.”
But the ending…ah, the ending. It twists and turns, it’s frightening, hopeful, romantic, and heart-breaking. In short, it’s everything you could want in a conclusion.
I don’t know if Howard will write a sequel; I would love to see where Alyssa’s journey takes her next. But I will be on line to read whatever Howard writes next.