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review: Splintered (A. L. Howard)

The Deets:
audience: YA
pages: 371
publisher: January 1st 2013 by Amulet Books
ISBN: 9781419704284
genre: retelling
source: eARC from Netgalley

SplinteredThis 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 do not usually amend my reviews, but sometimes discussions with others cause me to rethink my original impressions. That is certainly the case with Splintered. After telling two co-workers about the book and describing it to them (they each bought a copy, BTW, because they thought it sounded interesting), I realized that what originally made me complacent about the book didn't have a huge affect when it came time to recommend it to others. So... I thought that warranted an update. (New thoughts are in pink.)

If I could rate a book based solely on its cover, Splintered would have a solid 5 stars. Tell me this cover is not stunning? I dare you to disagree.

I was only mildly interested in the characters in this one. Yes, it was a great retelling of a classic with a new twist-- but that was about it for me. I wasn't really all that impressed with the characters. True, Alyssa wasn't your expected Alice. She actually had a firm control of her purpose; unlike Alice who seemed to bumble around having a grand ol' time in Wonderland. Of course, if you read Splintered, you'll realize Alice's grand adventures really mucked things up a bit. After more thought, I have realized that my lack of connection with the characters is solely due to my own life experiences. I could not relate to Alyssa because I don't have much experience with teens like her. I am extremely empathetic, but I am not emo. I am artistic, but not "artsy." That was really the problem-- I could not relate to her character, so it was hard for me at times.

Which brings me to what I did enjoy about Splintered: the minor characters. The Wunderland that Alyssa experiences is nothing like her ancestor's Wonderland. In fact, the creatures she encounters are down right nightmarish. The White Rabbit that was so cute with his ticking clock is described like some kind of freak-tastic jackalope with rotting flesh and a bad case of the mange. There were others as well that were represented in a brand new way. For that, I thought the story was top notch. It isn't just the minor characters that were so different, either. The entire setting of Wunderland was unique. As far as settings go, this one deserves an A. After talking with the author at a recent convention, (I had to ask how she came up with this story) the setting and certain elements really made sense. She said that she was partially inspired by the Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland. Let me say, that made complete sense because you get that vibe from Splintered.

However, the main characters were just bleh for me. I really didn't connect with any of them, nor did I really like them. I guess I couldn't buy into the fairy tale aspect with some of the characters, which made the love triangle not very believable for me. Yes, I know this wasn't meant to be realistic in any way, but the characters just didn't do it for me. They felt flat and one-sided. Sorry. I'm sure many other people will disagree with me on this point. I have thought more on this one and I am still having trouble with Morpheus. I can't put my finger on what exactly gave me trouble with this character, but there is something. I think it might be his extreme shadiness. I just can't figure out if he's the "bad guy" or not. It's worth mentioning though, that if there is a character that so obviously blurs those stereotypical boundaries in a book, he (or she) must be a pretty interesting character. I am curious to see how the storyline with Morpheus develops in the second book, Unhinged.

If you're a fan of retellings, go for it. You'll probably enjoy something in Splintered. If you get giddy over Alice in Wonderland stories, you're probably going to love this one. If you enjoy pretty covers lining your shelves, this one is a must. I still argue that the cover is one of the best I've seen. It's beautiful in person-- the colors just pop.


  1. Hmmm... this one has been sitting in my Kindle waiting me to read it for a while. I think I might just leave it for a little longer. I do love retellings but when you can't really connect with main characters, I don't seem to like th ebook as much. Great review!


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