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.
Thoughts: I wanted to love this one and at first, I did. I liked Alyssa, because she isn't a goody two shoes. In the beginning, she is presented with the perfect opportunity to steal money that she thinks she really needs (to save her mother). She takes that chance and I was excited to read about a girl who isn't perfect. I also loved her crush on the boy next door, Jeb, and her relationship with her parents. Her dad loves her and it is clear she loves her dad, but the mother-daughter relationship is complicated. Alyssa's love for her mother feels real and really allowed me to become invested in her quest.
The entire book has a super creepy vibe to it. The story opens with Alyssa using dead insects to create beautiful mosaics and once she gets to wonderland, things get even stranger. The story is filled with dark details inspired by the original story, but twisted in new and frightening ways. The scariest of these is the jabberlock box, a box that traps a person with just enough space so that it looks like their head is floating in the box. They are still alive, but totally isolated and cut off from communication. The creepiest part is, that the prisoner can be released only by a sacrifice. A person can use their blood to take the place of the jabberlock's prisoner, but the blood will seal the box for eternity.
Even though I liked Alyssa and loved all the haunting details of wonderland, the story didn't quite work for me. First, Alyssa does a lot of questing and gets a lot of help and I felt that she never got the chance to solve any of her own problems. But the end is where things really fell apart for me. When Alyssa finally makes a decision and gets to play an active role in her own journey... it just didn't work at all for me. Alyssa's decision negates a sacrifice that I found emotionally powerful, replacing it with a different sacrifice that meant nothing to me. It also had the effect of making me feel like the entire beginning of the book was a waste, because Alyssa's actions made everything that had come before it not matter. Then, Morpheus, the most interesting and morally ambiguous character in the entire story (his potential is sadly, not fully explored), fixes everything for her. It was all just a little too neat for my tastes.
Moments I Loved: I love the scene where Jeb and Alyssa almost confront their feelings for each other right at the beginning of the book.
WTF Moments: There were a lot, but they were mostly good. I loved the way Howard took the classic story and twisted it in ways that are truly terrifying.
Overall: An interesting and unique take on Alice and Wonderland. I didn't love it, but I will probably read future books written by this author.
Splintered gets a FakeSteph rating of...