Review – Insanity by Cameron Jace

January 29, 2014 Reviews 0 ★★★★

InsanitycoverTitle: Insanity
Author: Cameron Jace
Release Date: December 20, 2013
Pages: 256
Goodreads Rating: 4.13 Stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Content Rating: PG-13? (Violence and some mature subject matters)

Summary from Goodreads: After accidentally killing everyone in her class, Alice Wonder is now a patient in the Radcliffe Lunatic Asylum. No one doubts her insanity. Only a hookah-smoking professor believes otherwise; that he can prove her sanity by decoding Lewis Carroll’s paintings, photographs, and find Wonderland’s real whereabouts. Professor Caterpillar persuades the asylum that Alice can save lives and catch the wonderland monsters now reincarnated in modern day criminals. In order to do so, Alice leads a double life: an Oxford university student by day, a mad girl in an asylum by night. The line between sanity and insanity thins when she meets Jack Diamonds, an arrogant college student who believes that nonsense is an actual science.

Insanity is a quirky, somewhat bizarre modern take on Alice in Wonderland. (Of course, the oddities fit in quite well with Carroll’s original tale).  After reading this book, I’m still not quite sure if Alice is mad or not, and I have a feeling that that’s just what Jace wanted!

The story follows Alice Wonder, who has been locked in an insane asylum for the past two years because she killed  everyone in her class.  However, her already insane life gets a little crazier when an infamous murderer named Pillar (who is referred to as Professor Caterpillar in the synopsis – he was once a professor, but he now lives in the insane asylum along with Alice) blackmails the man who runs the asylum into allowing her to go out into the “real” world and try to catch a murderer before he kills again.  The murderer just happens to be the Chesire Cat.  Even more insanity ensues.

The negatives:
  • It’s crazy!  Well, this is kind of a negative, but really mostly a positive.  I’m warning you now, though, that you won’t necessarily be able to keep track of what’s “real” in this book and what’s not.  Just when you think you have it all figured out, you’ll get thrown for a loop again!  Like I said, at the end of the book, I still wasn’t sure if Wonderland is real or if Alice is just plain crazy!!
What I loved:
  • It’s crazy!  Pillar and Alice’s antics are just insane fun!  I spent the entire book trying to figure out if Alice is really the Alice – sometimes you think she is, and then you’re just not sure.  Is it maddening?  Yep.  Is it interesting?  Definitely.
  • Alice references.  Not only does this book have TONS of references to the original tale, it also talks a lot about Carroll himself (or, I guess I should say, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson himself).  Because the idea is that Wonderland is real, Carroll’s actions in the real world are just as important as the Alice story (and they play into the murder plotline).  I loved meeting the Wonderland characters throughout the book and finding out who their modern-day alter egos were.  You never knew who was going to show up next or what they were going to do!
  • Alice.  I really loved Alice and felt very sorry for her.  I mean, she’s finally starting to convince herself that everything she believed about Wonderland was just madness (and she actually doesn’t even remember any of it because of electroshock therapy) and then she gets plunged right back into it all!  Alice struggles to convince herself that she’s not mad. And once she gets out into the real world, she begins to think it’s madder even than Wonderland – but her top priority is always rescuing Constance (the girl who the Cheshire Cat has abducted).
  • Pillar.  Pillar is just plain crazy.  No ifs ands or buts about it.  On the one hand, he’s a murderer and you should probably hate him, but on the other hand, he’s kind of likable in a crazy sort of way.  Sometimes you have no idea if he’s helping Alice or if he’s just leading her on a wild goose chase (and occasionally you wonder if he’s even real).  I love it when characters straddle the line between good and bad, and Pillar definitely does that!
If you’re looking for a quirky new take on Alice in Wonderland (not really a re-telling, because this book is not trying to re-tell the original story), then this is the book for you!  Overall, I give it  4/5 stars.

***Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given. All opinions are my own***
 
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The writing on the wall says it’s January 14th. I am not sure what year. I haven’t been sure of many things lately, but I’m wondering if it’s my handwriting I’m looking at.
There is an strange key drawn underneath the date. It’s carved with a sharp object, probably a broken mirror. I couldn’t have written this. I’m terrified of mirrors. They love to call it Catoptrophobia around here.
Unlike regular patients in the asylum, my room is windowless, stripped down to a single mattress in the middle, a sink, and bucket for peeing–or puking–when necessary. The tiles on the floor are black-and-white squares, like a chessboard. I never step on black. Always white. Again, I’m not sure why.
The walls are smeared with a greasy pale green everywhere. I wonder if it’s the previous patient’s brains spattered all over from shock therapy. In the Radcliffe Lunatic Asylum, politely known as the Warneford hospital, the doctors have a sweet spot for shock therapy. They love watching patients with bulging eyes and shivering limbs begging for relief from the electricity. It makes me question who is really mad in here.
It’s been a while since I was sent to shock therapy myself. Dr. Tom Truckle, my supervising physician, said I don’t need it anymore, particularly after I stopped mentioning Wonderland. He told me that I used to talk about it all the time; a dangerous place I claim I have been whisked away to when my elder sister lost me at the age of seven.
Truth is, I don’t remember this Wonderland they are talking about. I don’t even know why I am here. My oldest vivid memory is from a week ago. Before that, it’s all a purple haze.
I have only one friend in this asylum. It’s not a doctor or a nurse. And it’s not a human. It doesn’t hate, envy, or point a finger at you. My friend is an orange flower I keep in a pot; a Tiger Lily I can’t live without. I keep it safe next to a small crack in the wall where a single sun ray sneaks through for only ten minutes a day. It might not be enough light to grow a flower, but my Tiger Lily is a tough girl.
Each day, I save half of the water they give me for my flower. As for me, better thirsty than mad.
My orange flower is also my personal rain check for my sanity. If I talk to her and she doesn’t reply, I know I am not hallucinating. If it talks back to me, all kinds of nonsense starts to happen. Insanity prevails. There must be a reason why I am here. It doesn’t mean I will easily give in to such a fate.
“Alice Pleasance Wonder. Are you ready?” the nurse knocks with her electric prod on my steel door. Her name is Waltraud Wagner. She is German. Everything she says sounds like a threat and smells like smoke. My fellow mad people say she is a Nazi; that she used to kill her own patients back in Germany. “Get avay vrom za dor. I an coming in,” she demands.
Listening to the rattling of her large keychain, my heart pounds in my chest. The turn of the key makes me want to swallow. When the door opens, all I can think of is choking her before she begins to hurt me. Sadly, her neck is too thick for my nimble hands. I stare at her almost-square figure for a moment. Everything about her is four sizes too big, all except her feet, which are as small as mine. My sympathies, little feet.
“Time for your daily ten-minute break,” she approaches me with a straitjacket, a devilish grin on her face. I never get out. My ward is underground, and I take my break in another empty ward upstairs, where patients love to play soccer with a hedgehog’s head.
A big muscled warden stands behind Watlraud. Thomas Ogier. He is bald, has an angry-red face and a silver tooth he likes to flash whenever he sees me. His biceps are the size of my head. I have a hard time believing he has ever been a 4-pound baby.
“Slide your arms into the jacket,” Waltraud demands in her German accent, a cigarette puckered between her lips. “Slow and easy, Alice,” she nods at warden Ogier, in case I misbehave.
I comply obediently and stretch out my arms for her to do whatever she wants. Waltraud twists my right arm slightly and checks the tattoo on my arm. It’s the only tattoo I have. It’s a handwritten sentence that looks like a thin arm band from afar. Waltraud feels the need to read it allowed, “’I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.’” I was told I have written it myself while still believing in Wonderland. “That Alice in Wonderland has really messed with your head.” She puffs smoke into my face as she mocks me.
The tattoo and Waltraud’s mocking is the least of my concerns right now. I let her tie me, and while she does, I close my eyes. I imagine I am a sixteenth century princess, some kind of a lucky Cinderella, being squeezed into a corset by my chain smoking servant in a fairy tale castle above ground, just about to go meet my Prince Charming. Such imagery always helps me breathe. I once heard that it was hope that saves the day, not sanity. I need to cool down before I begin my grand escape.

 

Cameron

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Wonderlander, Neverlander, Unicorn-chaser, enchanter, musician, survived a coma, & totally awesome. Sometimes I tell stories. Always luv the little monsters I write young adult paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and science fiction mostly. The Grimm Diaries series is a seven book saga that deals with retellings of fairy tales from a young adult POV – it connects most of the fairy tales together and claims to be the truth about fairy tales. I live in San Fransisco and seriously think circles are way cooler than triangles.

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