Title: Splintered (Splintered #1)
Author: A.G. Howard
Publisher: Amulet Books
Release Date: January 1, 2013
Pages: 371, Hardcover
Goodreads Rating: 4.02 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars
Summary from Goodreads: 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.
Okay, I confess. This was one of those books that I absolutely had to read based on the cover alone. I mean, really, look at it. It’s gorgeous and it screams awesome YA fantasy novel, right? Of course, amazing covers, don’t always equal amazing books, but in this case I was definitely happy with the results. Splintered is an exhilarating read that keeps you guessing about what could possibly happen next. The story starts out by introducing Alyssa, the great-great-great-granddaughter of the original Alice (from Wonderland). Alyssa can’t escape the tiny voices of plants and bugs that speak to her and she spends her life in fear of the day that she will go well and truly insane, just like her mother who has been committed to a mental institution. Her only solace is her loving father and her best friend Jeb who has always supported her through every heartache, but doesn’t know the truth about her mother or her own precarious sanity. But, when Alyssa realizes that Wonderland just may be real after all and that she and her mother might be under a curse caused by the original Alice, she decides that she has no choice but to go down the rabbit hole herself to try to undo the damage that has been done to her family.
But Alyssa discovers that the Wonderland that Lewis Carroll wrote about was an extremely watered-down version of the real thing. Wonderland is far more twisted and dangerous than she ever imagined and she learns that the story that the book that was written about Alice’s adventures doesn’t tell nearly the whole story. She also realizes that her own story is not as simple as she once thought. Alyssa struggles to figure out who to trust – should she depend on overprotective Jeb, (who she is secretly in love with and who will do anything to keep her safe)? Or should she give in to her adventurous (and sometimes dark) side and follow the mysterious Morpheus who she is both attracted to and appalled by?
I loved the dark twist on Alice in Wonderland and the interesting re-invention of the stories we know from the books. I also loved that I was constantly guessing about Morpheus’ true intentions – was he helping Alyssa or manipulating her? It seemed that the answer changed constantly (after reading the entire book, I’m still not 100% sure). The story never went exactly where I thought it was going to go, which was a pleasant surprise.
The one area that I thought the book lacked slightly was in the love triangle. I just didn’t find myself truly rooting for either of the two love interests. Controlling Jeb fell a little flat for me and Morpheus was just too obviously crazy (and possibly evil) for me to want Alyssa with him. I found myself in Jeb’s camp by the end, but I wish I felt like I had more reasons to be there, especially from the beginning. Still, this was one book where the love story didn’t overshadow the plot so much that it took away from my enjoyment of the rest of the book. Splintered was an exciting read and I will definitely read future books in the series. 4/5 stars