My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2
Series: Splintered (Book One)
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Amulet Paperbacks
Publication Date: February 18, 2014
“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…more”
“No one knows what he or she is capable of until things are at their darkest.”
I was really looking forward to Splintered, as I’ve read many positive reviews that claim it’s a satisfyingly dark adaptation of my favorite tale, Alice in Wonderland. And seeing as Alice in Wonderland has the skeleton to be far more disturbing and creepier than intended, I was more than excited to read this fresh new take on my favorite story.
Unfortunately, I was not as impressed with Splintered as I was hoping I would be.
The world-building is arguably the strongest aspect of the story. Howard relies heavily on visuals bursting with color and various oddities that scream “nonsense,” a staple of Wonderland and its upside down laws and inhabitants. Howard manages to capture that surreal aspect of the original tale we’ve come to know and love by unapologetically creating her strange and unsettling descriptions of the setting and the dark, twisted versions of Wonderland’s inhabitants. Rather than having her protagonist be frequently wowed and cowed by her surroundings, Allie takes the nonsense in stride (for the most part), behaving as if all that is happening is simultaneously abnormal and normal.
My disappointment with this book does not lie within the world-building/setting, nor does it even lie with the plot (though it could have been executed a bit better in the middle). My issue with Splintered rests with the characters, all of which I had a very hard time relating to.
Though I understood her motivations, I was having a hard time liking Alyssa simply as a character. I appreciated how well she absorbed her current situation and set her mind to rectifying the issue at hand, no matter the cost. She is a very caring and brave individual, but she is also extremely infuriating in her indecisiveness concerning two love interests as well as her childish and naive reactions to matters that are far less important than saving her mother and protecting her family.
As for the guys in the story, I couldn’t bring myself to see their appeal. Jeb, Alyssa’s long-time friend, is very supportive and protective of Alyssa, but also far too possessive and, at times chauvinistic, for my tastes. And Morpheus, Alyssa’s other mysterious long-time friend, is charming and (if I had to choose) possibly my favorite character out of them all, but too many times I found him to be far too calculating and self-centered to be likable or even trustworthy. So, I had a very hard time understanding why it was so easy for Alyssa to forgive him when he so clearly is not an ideal companion.
That being said, I enjoyed this story even though I was at odds with the characters. As a whole, Splintered is a fun, fairly fast-paced journey into a twisted version of Wonderland that anyone could appreciate. I’m just hoping that in the next book I’ll become a bit more fond of the characters, especially now that I’m fully aware of their personalities and that they obviously have room to grow and evolve in their new reality. And so, I’m looking forward to that, and I’m also really looking forward to returning to Howard’s creepy, fairly unsettling version of Wonderland in the next installment.