4 out of 5 Stars!
I’ve had my eyes on these YA novels for a while. The cover art for each of the three books in the series (and the subsequent collection of novellas) was absolutely amazing, both psychedelic and whimsical. Plus, it was a darker retelling of the Alice and Wonderland stories, personal favorites of mine. Intrigued, I picked up the first book at a local bookshop and dove right in.
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 was a ridiculously fun, mind-bending, and dark trip down the rabbit hole 🙂
The story follows Alyssa, a dreadlock-wearing, high-school skater girl. Who’s also a talented artist who makes beautiful mosaics out of insects. Insects that can talk to her…. Alyssa worries that she suffers from the same insanity that now holds her mother in a mental hospital. That is until she meets Morpheus, a denizen of Wonderland, and Alyssa takes her own trip down the rabbit hole.
This first novel in Howard’s Return to Wonderland series sets the stage for a magical, neon-hued ride into the insanity of a much more sinister version of Lewis Carroll’s whimsical world. The world building in the novel was phenomenal, with plenty of references to Alice’s maiden journey through Wonderland. As a life-long fan of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, I appreciated all of the shout outs and snippets from the original stories. But Howard still managed to make the story her own. All of the characters and places have a grotesque twist, like the skeletal “rabbit” and a mad hatter with no face.
The writing style was very fast paced and easy to read, but could be somewhat choppy and even predictable at times. About half-way through the novel, I could pick out certain elements that were going to be important in upcoming chapters strictly based on how they were introduced in the story line. This was a little annoying in Splintered, though the writing got much smoother later in the series.
This novel is a YA fantasy, so it’s expected that you’ll find some of the typical overused YA tropes, including a love triangle, the snobby rich girl harassing the main character, and “the chosen one”. Despite these issues, the characters were relatable and quirky enough to keep me reading through the cliched sections. Stigmas against mental illness and childhood abuse also played a large role in the first novel and throughout the rest of the series. Although the incorporation was somewhat romanticized and not entirely accurate in its portrayal, it’s good to see such topics appearing in mainstream YA novels.
Overall I give this book, and the rest of the series, 4 out of 5 stars! I really enjoyed the books despite a few issues. A great read for any fans of Wonderland or fantasy in general 🙂