Series: Splintered #1
Published by: Amulet Books on January 1, 2013
Genre: Fantasy, Magic, Paranormal, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult
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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.
I was not prepared for how heartbreaking the beginning of this book would be. As the story begins, we learn about Alyssa and her family—particularly her mom, who’s locked up in a mental hospital. It’s devastating. A.G. Howard is a genius with emotion-dripping pages. Who knew I could be so close to tears during the “background info” stage of a book? I didn’t! Alyssa’s pain, worries, and the weights she’s been carrying on her shoulders all these years all feel so real. Falling into this world and treating Alyssa like a real person instead of a fictional character was completely effortless.
There are so many different sides to Splintered. It’s a work of masterful prose, a knee-weakening romance, an imaginative recreation of Wonderland, a teen’s journey to paving her future, a mystery with so many twists and turns, and a story about families falling apart and coming together.
The romance… Oh my god, the romance. The romance in Splintered is SPECTACULAR! It had my knees weak, my heart racing, my eyes popping out of their sockets.. It’s perfect. It’s slow brewing, it’s taunting, it’s electrifying, it’s satisfying. It’s everything I love to read about! And Jeb. Jeb is a sexy beast.
“I’m not wasting another second drawing you,” he whispers against my lips, “when I can touch you instead.” He presses his mouth to mine.
“Don’t break my heart.”
“I’d cut mine out first.”
However, there was a love triangle in Splintered and I wasn’t a huge fan of it. In general, I don’t like love triangles unless there’s a clear reason for it and it makes sense. But in Splintered I didn’t feel like Morpheus was a good third corner of the triangle. He was weird and creepy, and I could have handled him coming onto Alyssa, but Alyssa’s feelings for him just seemed a bit off. I just kept asking myself “What’s the point?” Jeb was obviously the main guy here, so why does she have feelings for Morpheus at all? I guess maybe it has something to do with her bloodline, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I saw him as a creepy kidnapping rapist offering rainbows and candy to an innocent little girl. Or like, “Just hop inside my van, little girl, and I’ll make everything okay” (van = Wonderland).
I only have two other main issues with the book. The first is just that I honestly did get a little confused towards the second half. There’s so much going on, so many different motives, so many twists and turns, and so much new information. On the one hand, that’s what makes the book really exciting. But sometimes I did find myself losing it a little!
And finally, I did have some problems with the ending. The ending was very sweet and happy, and in that sense, I loved it. I actually didn’t realize my issue until afterwards when I was reflecting on the book. The main story of Splintered is about Alyssa setting out to save her family—in particular, her mom—but the end of the book felt totally about Jeb. Alyssa’s mom and family problems do get wrapped up, but it felt extremely quick and fleeting.
But overall, Splintered was a very strong, creative book with a terrific romance. This is the first Alice in Wonderland spin-off I’ve read, but I think it’s a fantastic example of what one should be like. It’s creepy, weird, totally crazy, and absolutely overflowing with imagination. If that’s what you’re into, I couldn’t recommend this book enough!