Who doesn’t like Alice In Wonderland? No, seriously, who? Actually, don’t answer that as I can probably think of a few people who just aren’t into that whole fantastical world with bizarre creatures and twisty turny logic thing. That’s cool. Splintered by debut author AG Howard takes on the Wonderland of Lewis Carroll’s classic novels but with a bit of a twist — plus a modern day setting. Personally, I liked Splintered for the most part, but I was pretty underwhelmed by it. Expectations were unmet and all that jazz. However, this debut novel does show a lot of imagination and potential.
Crazy runs in Alyssa Gardner’s family. You see, she is a descendant of Alice Liddell, as in THE Alice from Carroll’s stories. According to Splintered, Liddell ended up in a psych ward at the end of her life. Then, Alyssa’s grandmother committed suicide. And now her mother is in a mental facility and will only drink and eat things out of tea cups, I guess. Anyways, Alyssa has this big huge fear that someday she will be crazy too, it’s why she won’t let herself get close with next door neighbor Jeb. OH OH and so what happens, the driving event/force behind Splintered is that Alyssa finds a key to Wonderland and she ends up going there with Jeb and must find a way to fix everything that Alice did and thus lift the curse that causes the women in her family to go crazy.
Apparently Alyssa dresses weird and clips dreads in her hair and wears a lot of make up, so being my shallow self, I wanted to reach in and give her a make over, because I’m shallow. She’s also very shy and withdrawn. Alyssa often does not stand up for herself in the beginning and really a lot of her character development is in her finding her voice and learning to be brave while in Wonderland. I thought she came off as kind of clingy to Jeb as well, but I did like how she refused to move in on him while he’s dating another girl — that speaks volumes about her character.
The imagery of Wonderland in Splintered is gothy and weird and kind of really scary. I had some interesting pictures in my mind from Howard’s wording of Wonderland and how she described it. I thought that it was cool how she would pay homage to Lewis Carroll, but then when Alyssa was in Wonderland show what Carroll got wrong — like the White Rabbit was White Rabid, etc. However, I unfortunately have the shortest attention span ever and would find myself growing kind of bored of the descriptions. Like, there’s also long descriptions of what Alyssa is wearing which I how I know she dresses weird and I could definitely do without those. Also Jeb has a ruby red labret which we hear about a lot within the book.
The romance within Splintered is quite sweet. It’s far from steamy. Basically Alyssa and Jeb have known each other for a very long time and are neighbors. They are both attracted to each other, but due to circumstances have never acted on that attraction. Further complicating things, Jeb already has a girlfriend. Yet, Alyssa can’t fight her feelings for him. Anyways, it’s kind of sort of a slow burn, but it takes a really, really long time to get there.
In reflecting on and thinking about Splintered, I have to say I did enjoy the plotting towards the end of the book but I found myself bored for a lot of it. I also found myself irritated at the portrayal of those with mental illness. Now, I understand that this is a fantasy book and that it’s not real and that the mental illness of the mother was caused by a curse and that she wasn’t really mentally ill or whatever. However, I guess in retrospect, I kind of feel like it exoticizes mental illness as something that doesn’t happen to normal people, but something that happens with a curse. AND I understand that’s likely definitely not the intent, but to me it kind of came off as ‘other’ing people with mental illness. I’m not sure that I really care for using ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’ as a character’s defining trait, ya know?
I think that Splintered by AG Howard will appeal to a certain reader. If you love books that take you to dark places with descriptive imagery with characters who are outside of the norm, then you’ll like Splintered. I was mostly okay with this book, but am not quite rushing to put it on my favorites list, plus I felt like it dragged, but I realize that not all readers are like me or exactly the same as me, and thus like I said above, if you’re into this sort of thing, I’d recommend Splintered to you.
Disclosure: Received for review via Netgalley
Other reviews of Splintered by AG Howard:
A Reader Of Fictions – “brims with all of the kookiness of the original source material”
The Flyleaf Review – “if you like a dark and dangerous bad boy and some swoony romance”
Making The Grade – “contains the most eclectic cast of characters I have ever seen in YA”