Thursday, 14 February 2013

Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard

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.

WHOA. This has got to be one of the weirdest books I've read, but I still loved it so much! As a kid, I loved Alice in Wonderland, so this retelling really intrigued me. Plus, this book has got the most gorgeous cover ever, so that's another reason I picked this up. Splintered took me on a wild and twisted journey through Wonderland, and I have to say I enjoyed it immensely.

Initially, Alyssa really creeped me out. I mean, she killed bugs to use them in making mosaics. How messed up is that? But later, as I got to know her, I realized she's not crazy. She just believes herself to be, because of her mom. I found it awesome that Alyssa's a skater girl, because I don't normally see that in books. When she finds herself in Wonderland with Jeb, she takes control immediately. Her knowledge about her ancestors really comes in handy, too. I admire her strength because even though she's afraid of what she'll find in Wonderland, afraid of actually going crazy, she still manages to pull herself together and do everything she can to figure out a way to get back home. Moreover, she get both Jeb and herself out of trouble with some quick thinking, which was equally applaudable. Alyssa's also very wise, which I think stemmed from her experience in Wonderland. Something she said to Taelor near the end of the book really stuck with me - 

“Tearing down the rest of the world won’t make you happy. Look inside yourself. Because finding who you were meant to be? What you were put into this world to do? That’s what fills the emptiness. It’s the only thing that can.”

Alyssa has finally found herself, and she's become so much more because of this. She's very different from the girl who first jumped into the mirror to find herself in Wonderland, and I really like who she becomes in the end.

The first thing about Jeb that made me love him is his lip piercing. Yeah, it may be weird but I found that incredibly hot! He's got this classic bad-boy look about him, but it's ironic because he's totally a good guy. He's always watching out for Alyssa, though sometimes he's a bit overprotective. What I didn't like was his reason for going out with Taelor. He tells Alyssa that he only got together with Taelor because he wanted to get Alyssa out of his mind. What kind of a reason is that for getting a girlfriend? He went out with Taelor for ages, all because he needed to stop thinking about Alyssa? Yeah, okay. But other than that, Jeb's totally likeable. Especially when he was with Alyssa in Wonderland. His jealousy was cute to see, and he comforted Alyssa whenever she was feeling down. He makes her feel safe and cherished. Jeb is impossible not to like!

And now, we come to Morpheus - the beguiling bad boy of the novel. He has a past with Alyssa, something she only begins to remember during the course of this book. He knew her as a kid, and she talked to him often. But the man she sees before her is very different from the boy she used to know. When they were kids, Morpheus used to teach Alyssa about the ways of magic, and they were very close to one another. But Alyssa's forgotten all of that, and Morpheus has changed. I have to say I loved Morpheus despite not knowing where his loyalties lay half the time. At times he was arrogant and spiteful, but at other times he was gentle and sweet. He's sabotaged Alyssa and Jeb's plans to get home multiple times, and Alyssa hates him for it, but at the same time he sacrifices a lot for her, and she can't ignore it. I honestly didn't know what to think or Morpheus, but by the end I definitely loved him.

Splintered is unlike any book I've read. The strong magical elements and fantasy in it are captivating, and A.G. Howard's descriptions of Wonderland are just so real. I actually felt like I was there with Alyssa and Jeb. The underlying darkness in the novel is enthralling, the plot is so very original, and the twists managed to get me every time! As far as I know, this is a standalone, but I'd love to read a sequel or even a novella about Morpheus, since his ambiguity isn't cleared up at all. Plus, I really want to know his story. Splintered is definitely one of those books that stay in your mind long after you've finished it. It's also one of those books that you can re-read anytime, and I will definitely do that sometime soon!

Rating: 4.5/5

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