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.
This book was not what I expected. I was waiting for a very twisty-turny plot in a very Tim Burton landscape, with a plucky heroine, and likable love interests, and a bit of predictability in said twisty-turny plot.
More or less, I got half of that. See, the plot wasn’t twisty-turny. Not at first. I had a deadline to read the book by, because it was about to go overdue, and so I devoured the pages because I had to, not because the plot was enthralling me. I won’t lie, I was disappointed at first. And then the ending! A plot-twist that was anything BUT predictable (in my mind) and certainly as twisty as you get.
As for the Tim Burton landscape, oh yeah, and creepier still. The description was peppered deliciously, and everything was very vivid, to the point of almost over describing some things and almost, but not quite, slowing the plot sometimes. I’m amazed at the author’s vision. Because Alice in Wonderland (the new one) is one of my favourite movies, I had a pretty good idea of what I was thinking. And anything in the descriptions that didn’t match was described so well… I just saw it all. Amazing. Impressive. I wouldn’t want to live in A. G. Howard’s head.
The plucky heroine… now here’s a difficulty. See, Alyssa wasn’t plucky at first. I mean, she was. She was interesting, and had great psychology. For instance, she’s believed she, and her mother, are insane for most of her life. Her mother lives in an asylum. With straitjackets, you know. Sedatives. Nice. As a result, Alyssa kills bugs and makes mosaics out of them. As it was said in the book, very macabre, and quite realistic. While unpleasant, I liked it because of the realism. The rest of Alyssa was a bit… slow to grip me. Her voice wasn’t one of the most delicious I’ve ever read, for sure. But she got more and more awesome as the book progressed.
Likable love interest? Times that by two. That’s right, folks, yet another love triangle. Only… I’m not sure if the plot centered on it or not. The first section felt like it would be quite Raoul-VS-Phantom (particularly when a mirror got involved), and then the large middle section? Love triangle? That’s not important to the plot! And then at the end it made a reappearance. So if you’re all-out against love triangles, I’d still give this book a shot.
And you know how they usually have Good Boy versus Bad Boy? Not in this case. It was Bad Boy versus Worse Boy. One of them was a creepy Netherling stalker. The other is the childhood friend, who’s almost a bit gang-boy. I didn’t like either of them at first. And I loved both of them in the end. Go figure.
As for predictability? No. I haven’t actually read the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (shame on me!) so I’m no expert on the original story, by any means. I did get little things, though. The Twid Sisters. An allure of Walrus and the Carpenter. Rabid White.
So, to sum up, it was going to be two stars, because I just wasn’t having a good enough time reading it. Then it was going to be three stars, because, okay, I enjoyed the creepiness/fairies/the-cover-is-beautiful. And then… a twist I didn’t see coming, another potent twist, and then something that should have made me mad at the author, but made me smile and smile and smile (as clearly I was supposed to. Okay, it was CLEVER, and I’m running the risk of spurting spoilers.)
I couldn’t resist giving it a four. So I didn’t. And I recommend the book, too, for fairy-tale lovers, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland fans, and anybody who loves a bit of Gothic fantasy.
Mime is currently listening to the Peter Pan soundtrack, as she’s learning to play Fairy Dance on the piano. She’s reading The King’s Fifth which is promising to be fascinatingly good, planning to watch the Bourne movies over the weekend, and she wishes fairies were real.