Splintered by A.G. Howard
Book One of the Splintered series
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Hardcover copy won from a giveaway
Summary (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.
What I Liked:
First: I have never read Alice in Wonderland - not the original, or any retelling. I know very, very little about that book. I know the references (like the Cheshire Cat's smile, or we're all mad here, etc.), but I have not read the book. Or watched any movies, or whatever. So... my background knowledge, going into this book, was very scant. This may or may not skew my opinion of this book, who knows.
I really enjoyed this book. I think the author's been following me on Twitter even before I started following her. I've been tracking this series even before it came out - I remembered seeing Splintered in the BAM closest to me in December 2012, about a week before release, but I didn't buy a copy (I knew of the book, but wasn't really interested in the Alice retelling). So I'm quite familiar with this book. I know all about this series, the fandom, the dreaded love triangle.
Which is inevitably one of the biggest reasons why I waited so long to read this series (just months before it all ends, better for me and my impatience). I wasn't too interested in the series, the fandom is powerful and very overwhelming, and that freaking LOVE TRIANGLE. Just the thought of it had me going in the other direction. And the hype... it was too much. Nevertheless, I have endured (and really enjoyed) the first book!
Alyssa (haha yay, a book whose heroine shares my name!) goes down the rabbit hole in order to undo a curse placed on the women in her family, thanks to Alice (her great-great grandmother, or something like that), who messed up things in Wonderland. But Alyssa doesn't mean for her friend/crush Jeb to follow her to Wonderland. now they're stuck there until they can get help to break the curse and get out. And helps comes in the form of the Caterpillar, Morpheus, who is actually a moth. Cool.
Like I said before, the fact that I haven't read the original Alice in Wonderland story could affect my opinion of this book - but I thought this book was incredible, in terms of its uniqueness and originality. Alyssa's weird obsession with dead bugs, and the reason behind it. Her "insane" mother, who really isn't insane at all. Alyssa's strange childhood, her focus on hiding her underlying madness. The first chapter is mind-blowing, in my opinion. At first, I wasn't really sure of the point of everything with the dead bugs, but it's really cool and disturbing and cool!
That being said, one of the best and most captivating things about this book is the imagery. The depth of the descriptions of anything and everything in this book is incredible. The moths, the daisies, the creatures, even things like clothes - everything was really well-defined and well-described. I was swept away by the descriptiveness of the scenery, the characters, the little details.
I haven't read the original book, but it seems like this book is actually pretty original, independent of it being a retelling of Alice in Wonderland. Meaning, Howard takes things from the original story and adapts them. In this book, Alice in Wonderland is a work of fiction - it exists as a book in Alyssa's world, just as it does in our world. But Wonderland is like a parallel world or something - it exists, and Alyssa has been there before (though she does not remember). So, Splintered isn't quite a retelling, honestly, though it's marked as one. It's more like an embellishment, or a continuation. In my opinion.
I liked Alyssa. She's got this edginess to her, one that I wasn't expected. I suppose it's linked to her progressing "madness" and her refusal to accept it and be like her mother. Alyssa is tough and yet not invincible. She knows her shortcomings, but she also has a good feel for her strengths. I'm not a huge fan of some of the things she did in the beginning of the book (and boy, do they come back to haunt her), nor do I approve of the fact that she ALLOWED her father and Jeb to make the decision about London for her... but, overall, I really liked her, and by the end, I found that I was really rooting for her.
I like Jeb. He's a bit controlling and overly protective - I hated when he just up and decided that they needed to leave Wonderland initially, or that Alyssa needed to do xyz. However, I think, for the most part, that I like him. He has a good heart - I can see why Howard would have him as the Knight (elfin knight, something like that). I get the feeling that he is the dominant love interest... no matter how tantalizing Morpheus is.
Ohhh, do I like Morpheus. I'm totally team Morpheus, but not in the way that you think. I've already resolved myself to the fact that Jeb holds Alyssa's heart, and vice versa. However, I LOVE Morpheus. He is tricky and devilish, selfish and deceptive. As a character, I LOVE HIM. As a love interest, sure, he's hot, he's lovable, he's naughty, but I have a feeling that Howard is leaning towards Jeb, and so I'm not getting to attached to the hope that Morpheus and Alyssa will get a happy ending. And honestly, that's okay. I like Jeb, and I don't care THAT MUCH. That's what not reading a series immediately will do for you - you won't be as invested in the love triangle. This is why I binge-read love-triangle-related book series (the ones that I actually want to read, like this one).
This book isn't too long and it never felt that way. I didn't have a problem reading this book (gorgeous writing style, yo!), and I was constantly wondering what would happen next. Lucky for me, I won this book AND the next book in a fabulous giveaway, so I'll have my review of book two up on the 18th - exactly one week from today!
What I Did Not Like:
Like I usually say about series with this particular feature... love triangle. Ew. I hate love triangles. And this one is shaping up to be a vicious one, I can tell. This book introduces the characters, and honestly, I don't feel strongly about neither Jeb nor Morpheus. I mean, I have a feeling that Jeb and Alyssa will end up together. I just can't see it happening for Morpheus. Poor guy, because he is my favorite. He is so complex and awesome, I love him! But as a love interest? Meh. But seriously, enough with the love triangles.
I mentioned this above, but Jeb. In the beginning, I had my doubts about him. How dare he act like he should have a say in whether or not Alyssa should go to London?! Her dad, maybe, but not a friend. And he's dating a bully, a girl who tormented Alyssa throughout school. Who turns a blind eye to that?! Who just acts like that's okay, that his girlfriend and best friend don't get along at all, that his girlfriend terrorizes his best friend, and that's okay? Oh, but no, the girlfriend has family issues, we have to make excuses for her. But in the meantime, you should try to get along with her, Alyssa!
Seriously, Jeb? Really? Because, you know, Alyssa doesn't have family issues? At first, Jeb doesn't know the extent of the issues (the curse and whatnot). He knows that Alison (Alyssa's mother) is in an asylum-type living care. But making excuses for his girlfriend is ridiculous - not to mention the poor ones that he made. But ehh, whatever.
Would I Recommend It:
Despite the love triangle (my biggest sticking point), yes, I would recommend this book, especially to those who have been considering reading this series (like me), but were hesitant. If you already have a copy of this book, then go for it! The second book is already out, and the third book is almost upon us. You have nothing to lose! Also, Anita (the author) is a sweetheart. Furthermore, this series has some seriously gorgeous covers.
4 stars. A solid, beautifully written debut that left me wanting the next book (and the third book, despite the fact that I had not yet read the second book)! Where will Howard go with this series... there is only one way to find out!
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