Tuesday, July 23, 2013

REVIEW: SPLINTERED (Splintered, #1) by A.G. Howard

Title: Splintered
Series: Splintered, #1
Author: A.G. Howard
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Genres: YA, Fantasy
Reviewed by: Books4Tomorrow
Source: Purchased
My smiley rating: 5/5


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.


Splintered is yet another book I read because of all the hype and its colorful, fascinating cover. I really think it had more to do with the cover, than with the hype. But that’s not important. What is important is that one: this is unlike (and better) than any movie or book adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic; and two: the Lewis Carroll classic is merely the sugarcoating for the real Wonderland…and the Alice who came back from there all those years ago, may or may not have been the same Alice who went down the rabbit hole the first time around. Now, many generations later, Alice’s great-great-granddaughter has to go back to Wonderland to fix Alice’s messes and break the curse that her family had to endure for generations.

No, boys and girls, this is no ordinary fairy tale.

So many things I loved about this novel! The story really picks up when Alyssa finds the passage back to Wonderland, but before that happens, the author magnifies the suspense using all the tricks in the book to create an atmosphere of foreboding. By the time Alyssa steps through the mirror, my nail-biting has escalated to a new level. All the questions raised throughout the story are systematically answered and Alyssa draws all the conclusions before I even got to them. Some would’ve gone completely over my head had she not put two and two together for me. Suffice to say, there are a lot of twists and unpredictable outcomes of events in this story, and if you’re expecting a clean-cut, straightforward plot with fluffy, lovable characters, you might find that you’re in over your head. And now I feel like saying “Off with your head!”, but I digress. I enjoyed the constant comparisons Alyssa makes between this Wonderland and the one in Carroll’s version, and I can tell you now I’d rather find myself in Carroll’s less threatening Wonderland than the one created by Howard.

I loved the family dynamic between Alyssa and her dad. Alyssa’s mom has been institutionalized for quite some time, which of course places an emotional burden on both Alyssa and her father, yet they remain hopeful for her mother’s mental recovery. Alyssa’s dad isn’t an overbearing parent who places unreasonable restrictions on his daughter, but gives her space and freedom to grow and make her own choices. In most YA novels the parents are notoriously absent, so it was refreshing to find an existing family unit – however dysfunctional – between Alyssa and her parents, which proved to be an integral part of the plot for Splintered. Even though I couldn’t relate to Alyssa in any way, her determination, courage, and flaws endeared her to me even when I disagreed with some of her decisions.

Other than Alyssa, Morpheus is without a doubt the star of this show, with Jeb being a plot device as a solution for when Alyssa gets into sticky situations (sometimes literally) or for when she needs to be motivated to make a difficult choice. Secondary characters, specifically those of Wonderland, comes to life right in front of your eyes, and as ghoulish as the majority of these outrageous creatures who strive on chaos are, they were the ones that kept me hooked with their sinister antics. I couldn’t help but imagine Johnny Depp playing the role of seductively charming, mysterious, darkly attractive Morpheus. Jeb paled in comparison to Morpheus and became more like a buzzing emo insect in the background than a love interest, which thus brings me to the matter of…(sigh)…the love-triangle. Some stories need a love-triangle to make it work, others don’t. This is one of them. The story is exceptional in every way and can easily stand on its own without a love-triangle and still blow the reader away. The love-you, hate-you shenanigans between Alyssa and Morpheus cause enough drama to keep any romance-fanatic flipping the pages, but with Jeb in the mix, it just turned out to be tragically eye-roll worthy. Jeb makes for a really terrific best friend, but for me he didn’t work as a love interest. I would’ve gladly deducted one star because of this silly little triangle, but the story all in all is way too good for anything less than a solid five-star rating.

The ending was satisfactory, but felt a tiny bit rushed. I was happy the way things ended with Alyssa and Morpheus, but less happy about where Jeb fit into the picture. I’ll admit that I’m rooting for Morpheus as he is far more interesting and unpredictable than annoyingly overprotective Jeb, but the important thing is that there is going to be a next book in this series and I can only hope that Jeb will drop out of the picture. My advance apologies to Jeb-fans…or not.

The overall presentation – from the splendidly imaginative cover and very fitting title, to the superb story which takes you to a Tim Burton-esque Wonderland of epic proportions – Splintered is a gem that rises above its peers in the YA genre and blows all other Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland retellings out of the water. Its rich storyline with colorful settings and characters born from the darkest recesses of the mind will entertain and thrill any reader who dares to pick up this mysterious and twisted tale by an author who proved to have a knack for the macabre with this debut novel. So much more can be said for the ingenuity of Splintered, but simply look at the cover. It speaks for itself.


Splintered by A.G. Howard has 1381 reviews on Goodreads. Read it here.



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.


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The Cover Contessa said...

This was one of my favorite reads of last year (I got an ARC). I can't wait for the next one! I loved this one!

Books 4 Tomorrow said...

Thank you for your feedback, Brooke! I'm also looking forward to the second book and am hoping I'd be lucky enough to receive and ARC for review. Who do you like best - Jeb or Morpheus?

The Red Pen said...

Great review. Your reviews are all noteworthy. You should write your own book.