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.
First off, let me get the superficial things out of the way. Splintered is a gorgeous book. The cover is amazing, and I especially liked the fact that the publisher chose to use purple ink for the pages. There are interesting designs at the start of each chapter, and you can just really tell that presentation was important to everyone involved when it came to this book. Unfortunately, for me, that amazing detail and artistic presence didn’t translate to the story text itself.
(NOTE: I apologize for the overuse of ALL CAPS in this review. Sometimes it’s just the only way to properly express one’s feelings!)
It’s never a good sign when you spend most of the reading experience frustrated with at least one character. It’s really not good when you also spend most of the book actively disliking another. But such was the case with Splintered. This book just really annoyed me, which was a shame because the whole idea behind it – a retelling of sorts of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – should have been right up my alley. I wanted to know why the women in Alyssa’s family seemingly all suffered from some form of mental illness. I was curious about what kind of mistakes Alice made that needed to be fixed. And I really wanted to root for Alyssa, who seemed to be fighting against so much. Instead, I spent every second she was in Wonderland wanting to reach through the pages and strangle her, because she was just. So. FRUSTRATING.
We all know those stupid females in horror movies who run upstairs to get away from the baddie instead of out the door, right? Well, that was Alyssa to a tee; instead of trusting HERSELF (or at least listening to Jeb, who was the voice of reason here, even though he definitely had his own faults), Alyssa kept diving headfirst into situations put in her path by Morpheus, who was CLEARLY using her for his own gains. For me personally, after walking blind into the first problem because of his misinformation, I would stop taking his word on things, you know? But this was not what Alyssa did, and it just really made me want to pull my hair out.
Now, to be fair, I don’t think people were really supposed to like Morpheus. Or at least, you weren’t supposed to like his actions or reasons for them (I think we were supposed to find the man himself quite sexy, which, no). The thing I really hated was the fact that, if he’d just been straight with her, she probably would have done what was necessary ANYWAY because of the ridiculous bond they seemed to have. Even after everything came out, there wasn’t anything mentioned that said he couldn’t tell her, unless I just skipped over that accidentally during my eye-rolling (it’s possible, because I did quite a lot of eye-rolling). I HATE when a book is built on misinformation and manipulation, and that’s precisely what the ENTIRE STORY of Splintered revolved around.
Plus: A love triangle? REALLY? AND it’s the first in a series? I personally loved the ending, the sort of open-endedness of it, which allowed the reader to think about things. But now there’s going to be a book two, which is probably going to have even MORE love triangle junk, and, seriously, publishers, STOP IT. Sometimes one book really is enough!
Here’s what I did like: Alyssa’s journey from a scared girl to a strong heroine. The twisting of Carroll’s tale into something much more sinister and dark. The way you could still tell who the characters were, even if they didn’t precisely look like the ones you’re familiar with (whether from the book itself or the Disney film). Alyssa’s dad, who loved her unconditionally. The creepy factor. The twist regarding Alice and her descendants. Alyssa’s actual trip through Wonderland and everything she encounters.
As far as the actual retelling part, Splintered is pretty sound, annoying characters excluded. Even though I came away from this book more frustrated than anything else, I still found some things enjoyable. Much of the ratings drop is due solely to my feelings for Morpheus and Alyssa’s inability to realize he was manipulating her, so feel free to take the rating itself – and this entire review – with a grain of salt. After all, reading is probably one of the most subjective hobbies out there, so your mileage may vary!