Splintered by A.G. Howard

(Splintered, #1)

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.

“For that is the essence of a soul. Hopes and dreams and love.”

Even though I'm not a fan of the original book, I have to say there's something charming about the old story of Alice in Wonderland. It's fantasy and fairy-tale to its fullest, a timeless story that has influenced much and will continue to live on through retellings. Splintered in the first in a series that brings the story of Alice to modern day, but instead the point of view is through her great-grandmother. The characters have been transformed and even further into the fantasy world - gone are the childlike tropes of the cute bunny to follow, the weird caterpillar to communicate with, the maddening tea parties. Now we get creatures to chase and eat alive, the caterpillar is handsome and sensual, and the bunny - well, let's just say this thing has gone all creepy.

Imaginative and colorful, Splintered tells the story of Alyssa as she ends up succumbing to temptation by going into the wonder glass to save her mother from electric shock therapy. Yes, really. See, the mother has been touched by the curse of Alice and sees what she shouldn't, swapping her sanity to save her only daughter. Now it's Alyssa's turn.

Characters are fun - Alyssa isn't your typical child. She's a teen with a crush and overprotective father, but she enjoys art with dead bug corpses, can hear insects and flowers speak, and spends her week visiting mom in an asylum and wondering what's real or fantasy for her now that evil puberty has struck. I thought I changed a lot when puberty hit, but she makes me experience seem like a walk in the park.

I like her our-world crush, he's charming and carries over that friendly boy next door vibe. I can't help but dig Morpheus either since he's that side of dark and tempting. There's a mini triangle brewing but it doesn't take from the story. The creatures they run into and fight are creative - loved the sea sponge scene (as disturbing as it was), the dinner scene was troubling, and the twist with the chest board? Wickedly twisted.

Even if the ending packs a whallop and some twists, I have to say the story loses me a few times because there's so much going on that's beyond me, accompanied by a fierce sense of urgency after she steps through the glass. It's rushed and the pacing is almost too fast to keep up with sometimes.

Overall it's a worthy read - action packed and fantasy filled, beautifully colorful and uniquely constructed, but sometimes the pacing makes me feel lost and a little emotion is removed for the sake of story speed.

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   Book Quotes:

“No one knows what he or she is capable of until things are at their darkest.” 

“Little blossom in peach and red
Trapping boys with your pretty head;
Tease and play, be coy and smart
For you will one day break his heart” 

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