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.Adaptations can be tricky. They can be hit and severe miss and often it depends on whether the author manages to reinvent or add to the story. Stories such as Alice in Wonderland are the kind of stories which facts are known: she falls through a hole, there is a rabbit and bandersnatches. I myself have, as of yet, not read any of Lewis Caroll's Alice books so I only had a very rudimentary understanding of the story. Howard, however, managed to shift everything I knew about it and make it into something completely new. Splintered uses Lewis Caroll's books as a starting point and then writes a story that feels completely original. Howard clearly put a lot of thought into working out her own Wonderland and it really shows in her descriptions of the world her characters live in. The descriptions are some of the strongest parts of the book for exactly that reason. Howard's Wonderland is genuinely different from any world I have read recently and are beautifully dark and Gothic.
There is a great grungy and gothic feel to the book. Although at times it feels like Howard overdoes
it a bit with presenting her main character as "edgy". Alyssa is, in some ways, your typical teenager. She is balancing her social life with personal issues and manages to fall into some typical YA traps such as self-esteem issues, love triangles and worried parents. On the one hand this alls truck me as very typical, but on the other hand Howard added in little snippets which made Splintered still really fun to read. At times I wanted a bit more "power" out of Alyssa, but on the other hand I felt that most of her actions are quite well-explained. I loved how active her role was in getting herself out of the situation she found herself in, despite having people around constantly trying to save her. The other "normal world" characters apart from Jeb are almost non-existent which is understandable considering most of this book is set in Wonderland. Perhaps Howard was almost too indulgent with her characters in the sense that it's all so pretty that we almost forget to look at everything else. Overall there was nothing that I thought was ridiculous and there are definitely well-used tropes that Howard writes better than a lot of other authors.
A first book in a series always has to struggle with setting up characters and plot lines for the sequels. With Splintered I didn't have the feeling that Howard was only stringing the reader along until she hit a cliff-hanger. The use of the supernatural in this book is also something I really enjoyed. Although there is an element of discovery to it there is no unnecessary drama around it. There are some great dynamics in the book, between different characters and between different ideas. Splintered makes you want to disappear off to Wonderland, not because it's pretty but because it's so exciting! There's something quite riveting about the world Howard creates and it's amazing that she managed to come up with something so different from the source material I am hoping more of her Wonderland will be worked out in the next book, Unhinged. Guessing by the title, I see bad things in Alyssa's future. I can't wait to read it.
I give this book...
I really enjoyed Splintered, although I'm withholding my final judgement until I've gotten to the next book. I really want to see how the different arcs develop that Howard set up in this book and I hope that it continues to be so inventive. I would definitely recommend this to readers of YA and those who like adaptations in general.