Title: Splintered (Splintered #1)
Author: A.G. Howard
Year Published: 2013
Synopsis: 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.
Review: HOLY WOW. This book, you guys, is probably the best Alice in Wonderland reimagining I have ever read. And I've read quite a few. It has everything that you would expect from the original novel, but with a totally different spin on it. The Mad Hatter, the Door Mouse, the Caterpillar, the Red & White queens, the card soldiers, the White Rabbit, the talking flowers.... even the walrus and the carpenter! But nothing is as it seems, and I think that's what made this book so exceptional and put it so far about every other Alice retelling.
Apart from all of the wonderful references and plays on the original characters and places, A.G.'s writing is absolutely gorgeous. I felt Alyssa's pain when she thinks about her mother and her other relatives going mad, and I could picture Wonderland as Alyssa discovers it for herself. Things are shown instead of told, and it makes such a huge difference in a world where the visual aspect is hugely important. The world building, in addition to and probably because of the beautiful writing, is absolutely stunning. Wonderland is fascinating and terrifying and everything I would imagine it to be. It kind of reminded me of Tim Burton's rendition, but was still entirely its own creature.
There is definitely romance in this book, and I found that I just could not pick a team when it came to the boys. Jeb is, quite literally, the boy next door. He's grown up with Alyssa and is basically perfect for her. He's chivalrous and caring and he loves her despite her flaws and only wants what's best for her. Morpheus, on the other hand, is definitely the bad boy every girl's parents warn her about. He's manipulative and sneaky and only helps other people when it coincides with what he wants or what will benefit him. But he's mysterious and he obviously cares a great deal for Alyssa and I really want to learn more about him.
This book wraps up really nicely, with a lot of the plot wrapping up and ending in a pretty satisfactory way. If I had read this book when it first came out, I probably would have thought it was a standalone even though there are still quite a few questions I have. But luckily there are more books and I can't wait to get my hands on them to visit Wonderland again! And to see if I can finally choose Team Morpheus or Team Jeb (probably not), and to find out how the major reveal plays in to the rest of Alyssa's life.
Splintered is a spectacular book that should be read by any and all fans of Lewis Carrol's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It's the right combination of new and old, and takes on a life of its own even when things seem very familiar. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a YA fantasy, and to anyone who enjoys classic retellings. A 5/5, although I wish I could give it more! I can't believe I waited so long to read it and will not be making that same mistake with Unhinged and Ensnared!