Sunday, February 23, 2014

Review: Splintered by A. G. Howard

by A. G. Howard

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 371
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication date: January 1, 2013
Suggested tags: young adult, dark fantasy, retellings

First in Splintered series. From Goodreads:
"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 dark, disturbing, and freaking amazing. It takes the innocent Wonderland we're familiar with and turns it on its head, making the delightfully odd into the dangerously bizarre. It's brilliant. It's twisted. It's weird and macabre and wrong, and yet oh so right.

I am a hardcore Wonderland fan. I read all the retellings I can get my hands on. Splintered is currently at the top of my list of favorite retellings. I love the fact that Alyssa has to go back and fix Alice's mistakes  - Howard's interpretations of Alice's actions and the ways Alyssa should correct them were clever and, at times, quite action-packed. The scene at the Pool of Tears had me riveted, flipping pages like mad.

I really can't stress how disturbing this retelling is. It's a dark, twisted, terrifying version of Wonderland that Alyssa finds herself in. (SPOILER - highlight to read: The scene at the banquet? WHAT.) But I happen to love dark fantasies, so I loved this Wonderland. I loved the set up to get to Wonderland too, with Alyssa thinking she's inherited her mother's madness and hearing the whispers of insects and finding clues to Wonderland hidden around the house... And of course there's Jeb and Morpheus. I'm usually not into love triangles, but this one I was ok with, because Morpheus always seems to have a hidden agenda and it left me constantly questioning whether he was actually in love with Alyssa or just using her. The push and pull between them was fantastic. And Jeb's heroic selfless love was wonderfully sweet.

Days after finishing Splintered, I was still lost in it, finding my mind drifting back to its version of Wonderland and getting twisted up in its insanity again and again. This was a deliciously warped retelling that I'm now completely obsessed with, and I'll definitely be going back to Wonderland in the next book, Unhinged.

Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars

More about A. G. Howard }

A. G. Howard's website
A. G. Howard's Goodreads profile
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