Saturday, January 19, 2013

ARC Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard

Publisher:  Abrams/Amulet Books
Publication Date:  January 1st, 2013

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.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

This book was just... WOW!  I am going to try to find words to express how much love and adoration I have for this book, but honestly, there just aren't really any to do it justice.  I was blown away for so many reasons...

The initial reason I was drawn to this book was the cover.  I don't think they come any more stunning!  The art is absolutely eye-popping, and I would have wanted to read this book no matter what it was about; It just happened to be a bonus that it is a retelling of one of the greatest books ever written, Alice's Adventures In Wonderland.  I'm always in the market for a great retelling of a much-loved classic book, because I think so many authors have been influenced by these stories, and oftentimes, their perspective is creative genius.  The Fairy-tale Retelling has actually become a genre of its own, and it seems that the Classic Retelling is moving in that way.  I've recently read some great Jane Austen retellings (The Trouble with Flirting and Epic Fail, both by Claire LaZebnik, and For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund), and several authors have retold the amazing L. Frank Baum's fabulous stories of OZ (most notably, Gregory Maguire's brilliant Wicked, Son of a Witch, etc.), but Alice has been rather untouched (although I have to say that I adore Frank Beddor's The Looking Glass Wars trilogy).  I was so excited when I read the synopsis of Splintered because the potential for a great, imaginative story stemming from Alice and her adventures, is limitless...

Well, I'm sure you've gathered from my introduction to this review, A.G. Howard TOTALLY pulled it off.  I was completely sucked into this story; It was almost as if I went down the rabbit hole myself...  So why was is so brilliant?  Since there are so many reasons I loved this book so much, I am going to bullet point them...
  • Characters- The characters in this story were fantastic!  The main character, Alyssa, was very real; A damaged, insecure teen who isn't really sure who she is, or where her life is headed.  She grows a lot throughout the story, and it was great to be along for the ride.  Two other characters who I was really drawn to were Morpheus and Jeb.  Jeb is Alyssa's neighbor, BFF since childhood, protective older brother figure, and secret love interest.  He is a major player in this story, and I loved the way his character developed, and the way his relationship with Alyssa grew.  Morpheus is an extremely complex character.  He has so many facets, that as the reader, you will find it impossible to form a concrete opinion of him until the very end, and maybe not even then, and I love that.  Alyssa's mother was also interesting, although I never formed any kind of attachment to her like I did the aforementioned.  Some of the best characters were some of the crazy creatures and oddballs of Wonderland.  I even loved the baddies...
  • Story- AMAZING!  I was completely enthralled.  Like, seriously, for real...  I could not put this book down.  It pulled me in from page one, and got better and better (I actually tweeted the author about 150 pages in to ask if there would be a book two, because I knew I wouldn't be happy when it ended!).  I knew very early on that this would be one of those books that I wanted to slow-read to have it last longer (even though there was no way I could possibly do that), because I was going to be so sad to have to leave the world and the characters behind.  The pacing was perfect, and the plot was riveting.  I loved how everything unfolded; How each character's closely guarded secrets were revealed, and how those secrets tied so well into the tasks that Alyssa and Jeb had to complete to save her mother and herself.  I even enjoyed the love triangle, which is usually something I detest in YA.  The romantic element was expertly done.  I have to admit that some of my favorite parts of this story were the betrayals (and perceived betrayals), and the profound sacrifices that some of the characters were willing to make for one another.  There were also some really epic twists- ones that I never saw coming- that made this story even more fantastic.
  • World Building- I just can't even.  Splintered has some of the best world building I have ever read.  The images my mind produced while reading this book were so vividly detailed, so remarkably original, and oftentimes, so disturbingly grotesque, that I still haven't let go of them, and likely won't for a very long time.  The landscape of Wonderland that A.G. Howard paints is phenomenal.  I dare say that her depiction was even more vibrant than that of the original author, Lewis Carroll, which is saying A LOT.
I am going to go out on a limb and say that even though it is only January, this book will make my top five for 2013 (as of now, it is tied for the number one spot with Victoria Schwab's The Archived).  I loved it so much.  If you are a fan of the original, you MUST get a hold of Splintered right now.  You won't be sorry that you did.

My Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  

Grade Level Recommendation:  There are a few scenes in this book where the romance gets a little hot and heavy (no sex though), but otherwise this book is pretty clean.  I say it's fine for 5th grade and up (ages 10+).

1 comment:

  1. I LOVED This book. I sped through it. I was super excited to have an ARC! Now I have a hard copy and it's so beautiful!


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