Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ (out of five) ♦♦♦♦ (out of five)
Sometimes, life gives you moments that are just too amazing to just be a coincidence, and this week was like that for me. After finding myself watching the Disney version of Alice In Wonderland on Sunday night, Monday I was in my local Barnes and Noble perusing the Young Adult section, hoping I could find a great book for my “little sister”. Splintered, by A.G. Howard, and it’s vivid, rich cover art caught me instantaneously, and I was spellbound.
(Really, how can you NOT get pulled in by this book? Look at that cover, it’s exquisite!)
This book is phenomenal Our protagonist, Alyssa Gardner, is a descendant of Alice Liddell, a.k.a, Alice of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol, and she’s starting to fear that she is becoming mad, just like her mother, who is currently residing in a mental hospital. Through the first portion of the text, Howard weaves the intricate and vivid tale of how Alyssa makes macabre mosaics of dead insects, because she can hear the insects talking to her, and details the circumstances of strange mental illness that has traveled down her family through the generations.
But, maybe it’s not mental illness after all. Maybe they are just different. In a fateful visit to her mother at the asylum, Alyssa realises the only way to save her mother is to lift the curse of mental illness that has run through her family straight into her dreams and every day life, and find the rabbit hole herself.
This is not your fairy tale Wonderland story. This is a beautifully rich and descriptive vision of Wonderland without all of the nicetities that made for a children’s book. In true Young Adult fiction fashion, there is a love triangle, but Howard makes each character so wonderfully rich and detailed that they feel like real people, and not some literary cliche. Jeb, Alyssa’s bad boy artist next door best friend follows her into Wonderland after she accidentally wishes him there she has secretly loved for a while, but hasn’t been able to tell him for fear of dragging him into the darker parts of her life. The second suitor is the macabre and mercurial Morpheus, a Wonderland Netherling with huge moth wings that seduces the other part of Alyssa in ways she never thought she could have experienced.
True to any wonderland type story, Howard nails the important issues that tie this to Carrol’s tale. The sea of tears, the Bandersnatch (which has always been my personal favorite in my obsession with Alice in Wonderland) the vorpal sword, the card shaped guards and the hatter all make an appearance and help weave this vivid and sumptuous tale that makes it a treat for any Alice fan.
This book is not just about Wonderland, or righting the wrongs of the past to fix the future, but it’s an amazing tale of being true to yourself, and finding the courage one needs to show to become who you were meant to be. A.G. Howard nails this story, hands down, and I cannot recommend it enough to people.
I can’t wait to see what is in store as her career grows, I’ll gladly follow this writer to any place she deems fair to take us. Even if that means I have to travel down a rabbit hole to get there.