Splintered by A.G. Howard

Publication Date: January 1st, 2013
Amulet Books
Format: E-ARC from Net Galley
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


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.

Here’s the thing: Splintered is every bit as imaginative and visceral as Tim Burton’s interpretation of Alice. Anyone who would endeavour to read this book would surely be amazed by the intricate and descriptive world the author has created. But for someone who hasn’t read the original work this book was based on, reading it might just be a daunting task.  
The onslaught of vivid creatures and enchanting world was a bit overwhelming – in particular the chapter titled, The Feast of the Beasts, which was really the beginning of the end for me. I didn’t really get the purpose of this dinner. It was a cornucopia of every creature that ever resided in Tim Burton’s head. The monster that Morpheus sat her with was supposed to be one of the most menacing and was a test as to how Alyssa could handle herself. She sat beside him and had a little convo. Soooo that’s it? That was the test? Did I miss it?
As much as I’d like to praise the author for having such an inventive imagination (and truly, she does), I’m sorry to say that all it did was frustrate me. And because she put a lot of effort in making sure the readers know exactly what the creatures looked like, she had used a lot of as if and like. Does that make sense? This book was like a mass hysteria of creatures in a fantasyland. The author wasn’t really successful in telling a seamless story – bridging all the fantastical aspects that the reader could follow easily.  I couldn’t focus on one thing because it was a barrage of EVERYTHING coming at me all at once. It was vivid (sorry, I’ve misused, abused this word in this review but I can’t find another alternative to describe it), colourful, and a feast for the reader’s imagination and yet it failed to wow me. Half the time, I kept finding myself dazed, asking: wait, what am I reading again?
The pace of the story was perfect in the beginning but it lagged when Alyssa got to Wonderland. I was bombarded with back stories and memories that didn’t really help with my already growing confusion. This didn’t really make sense because some readers would say that this is when the story actually took flight. For me, I just wanted to get Alyssa going. I wanted her to get on to the actual quest. This really bogged me down. I started this book as soon as I got approved from Net Galley (October 11ish) and I sailed through half of it in no time. But by the time Alyssa and Jeb fell down the rabbit hole, it had become a series of starts and stops for me.
Another aspect of this story that frustrated me was her fascination with Morpheus. They shared some sort of past through hallucinations dreams but it was all muddled. Because Morpheus has been alive ever since the curse started, the memories were a bit messy. It’s hard to know which of the Lidells was doing what at any given flashback. I also don’t get the appeal of this sinister creature. I don’t get Alyssa’s jealousy over Morpheus’ affection with the Ivory queen. I don’t get his pull and I don’t get why Alyssa was so taken with him. What he had to do near the end of the book didn’t really make up for all the dubious things he did to coerce Alyssa to Wonderland. 
In the novel, bits and pieces of Lewis Carroll’s Alice were written in as her clues. And this is where someone who’d not read the book would perhaps be at a lost. There’d be characters that were mentioned that I am not familiar with – which was pretty much everyone: Herman Hattington, all the queens, the rabbit. It got too confusing that I wasn’t able to recognize who were an original cast and who were created by the author herself. I think it’s a major stumbling block for me. This is unfortunate because AG Howard can clearly write. With an imagination such as hers, she’ll flourish quite effortlessly in fantasy. I just hope it won’t be as overpopulated with mythical creatures, so to speak.
But hey, this book is brilliant, all right? I love the twist and how she wove her own yarns into the classic. I just wasn’t able to appreciate its grandiose world because, really you need to read Alice in Wonderland or watch some sort of interpretation of it in film. I was a chicken with my head cut off reading this book. Besides the fact that I do not like love triangles and consequently a character who finds herself waffling between two guys, this book was just – all over the place for me. However, I stand by my #reviewsontherun on Instagram that this book is IMAGINATIVE. VIVID.