Splintered by A.G. Howard
Expected publication: January 1, 2013 (Amulet)
Source: E-ARC from NetGalley
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.
Before I can respond, his warm, soft mouth touches my forehead, my temple, and then my jaw. Each time, his labret gently grazes my skin. He stalls at my jawline and bends to gather me close for a hug, nose tucked against my neck.
"Never scare me like that again."
It doesn't matter that we're wet; heat radiates through our sopping clothes. I weave my gloves through his hair.
"You came back for me."
He nuzzles closer in the crook of my jaw, and a powerful wave of emotion pulses through him.
"I'll always come back for you, Al."
I finished Splintered almost a month ago at the time of writing this review, but as I searched the pages for a quote to share with y'all, I found myself falling in love with A.G. Howard's debut novel all over again: with the ethereal setting, with the beautiful writing style and imagery conjured while reading snippets, and with the amazing characters. I went on a journey while reading Splintered, and it is one of the few books that I immediately went online to pre-order once I finished. Splintered took me to Wonderland - a different Wonderland than I imagined - and truth be told, I left a part of my heart there.
Somewhere between the first and last page, I fell in love: with Alyssa, with Jeb, with Morpheus, and with the Wonderland A.G. Howard has imagined. Picture, if you will, a scared Alice who came back from Wonderland, and got some of the important details wrong. This isn't the Wonderland Alyssa's classmates tease her about. This is Wonderland turned inside out, painted entirely different in its macabre, vivid reality than in the book written around Alyssa's ancestor's stories. Everything Alyssa thought she knew is wrong or false - more horrifying than she imagined, darker, more lush and sinister, or seductive. Splintered's world-building is fabulous and flawless - a sensual place I never wanted to leave.
If asked to choose a favorite character, I'm not sure I could, with any certainty. The characters are all stand-outs - terrifically fleshed-out people who feel real in their complexities. Alyssa is independent, and her fears of ending up like her mother are so genuine; she's easily a sympathetic character. Jeb is swoon-worthy by definition (mine at least): protective, a loyal friend, sensitive, honest; his disbelief at finding himself in Wonderland translates well to the reader, and I wish we could have seen a few things from his point of view! I fell immediately for Jeb - we're talking can't-eat-can't-sleep, head-over-heels, drawing-his-name-in-my-notebook love. But there's also Morpheus. Oh, Morpheus: sly, sexy, tricksy, mischevious...with hos own way of caring. I won't say there's a love triangle to Splintered, but there are definitely two amazing boys - the kind I wish were real!
If you're looking for a thrilling, un-put-downable novel, then you must read Splintered. I didn't know whether to clap in geeky joy or gasp in fright throughout this book. Through Alyssa's tests, and her journey of self-discovery, as well as unraveling her family's secrets, I felt like I was right there with her, walking just a step behind her, shadowing her journey. I loved the familiar Wonderland elements, but I also loved how A.G. Howard continually took my breath away with one thing meaning another, and each new plot twist. A very few I saw coming, but mostly, I sat amazed, turning the pages as fast as I could. I cheered for Alyssa when she succeeded, and wanted to jump into Splintered to help her at times. But it was her quest, her mission, and it warms my heart that she did it all out of love for her mother and father, and in the process, learned who she really was.
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A.G. Howard was inspired to write SPLINTERED while working at a school library. She always wondered what would've happened had the subtle creepiness of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland taken center stage, and she hopes her darker and funkier tribute to Carroll will inspire readers to seek out the stories that won her heart as a child.
When she's not writing, A.G.'s pastimes are reading, rollerblading, gardening, and family vacations which often include impromptu side trips to 18th century graveyards or condemned schoolhouses to appease her overactive muse.
Visit A.G. online at: her website | her twitter | her pinterest