Not All Takes on Wonderland Are Good Takes on Wonderland: Cassie-la is Nonplussed by A.G. Howard’s ‘Splintered’

Splintered AG Howard Book Cover.pngSplintered by A.G. Howard (Galley)
Release Date
: January 1, 2013
Genre
: Fiction, young adult, fractured fairy tale, fantasy, Wonderland, even worse than the Tim Burton one
Rating
: 2.76 out of 5 stars

Summary: Alyssa Gardner is a descendent of Wonderland’s real life Alice, Alice Liddell, a fact which makes her the brunt of the jokes at her school. It also means her poor mother is locked in a mental institution, another victim of the Liddell curse. Alyssa doesn’t believe in such things, that is until she starts hearing bugs and flowers talk to her and she finds herself in a much different Wonderland determined to save her family once and for all. Will she escape? Assuredly. Will her one true love finally notice her? Most likely. Will you cringe the entire time at the plodding, complicated plot and painful writing? Definitely.

It’s been said in this blog before and I will say it a thousand more times just to get it through your skull, I LOVE ALL THINGS ALICE! I even wrote a post about it, expressing my love for the little blonde in the blue dress, but that’s doesn’t mean that all Alice adaptations hit the mark for me. And unfortunately – despite the amazingly atmospheric book cover that had me drooling in excitement – this take on Wonderland missed all the marks. Definitely do not judge this book by its cover, the outside far exceeds the inside. But oh how I wish it didn’t.

Splintered suffers from many problems, the first of which is the ridiculous portrayal of its heroine, Alyssa Gardner. Alyssa is desperately struggling to separate herself from her insane mother Alison who claims to be under the Wonderland curse which causes the sufferer to only eat things from a tea cup and to wear blue dresses, white aprons and headbands. You would think a family who believes in and fears said curse wouldn’t name all their female children after the Lewis Carroll heroine. Just saying.

Alyssa strikes away from these conventions (despite herself being under said “curse” and hearing the whispering of bugs and plants) by skate boarding in a rink called Underland, putting false brightly colored dreadlocks in her hair and wearing obsessive amounts of “goth” makeup which includes silver lipstick. Oh my God you guys, Alyssa is so alternative. Her best friend/love interest Jeb lovingly calls her skater girl, making this entire novel Avril Lavigne’s wet dream.

One would think that being the great-great-great granddaughter of Alice Liddell would be a point of pride, but for some reason Alyssa is taunted by her schoolmates for it. One such jab: she’s referred to as the “Mad Hatter’s love slave”. Of course, the fact that Alyssa kills bugs and then makes them into art doesn’t help her stigmas as that weird, Wonderland girl. It also makes her a tortured Mary Sue of the worst kind.

And if you thought Alyssa sounded like a painful protagonist, wait until you meet her love interest: Jeb. Despite being a “punk” kid with a labret piercing and long flowing hair that he keeps held back in a ponytail, and ignoring the fact that he fondles his bestest bud Alyssa in a sexual way on a regular basis, he is dating the most popular girl in school, Taelor. Yup, Taelor, who is cursed with an awful name and a bitchy personality that Howard tries to explain away by giving her a tragic “daddy doesn’t love me” back story. The. Worst.

To make things even more painful, Howard tries to enmesh us in Alyssa’s world with stunning dialogue like, “Those dreadlocks are wicked tight,” “pinky swears are forever,” and the so bad it’ll make you throw the book down: “Oh, fark.” Yup, “Oh, fark” which is how the teens curse these days. Or so the author leads us to believe.

The entirety of the plot hinges on the fact that Alyssa needs to go back to Wonderland and break the family curse to free her asylum ridden mother from getting electroshock therapy the following week, which Alyssa helpfully adds used to be done with eels. Did I mention Alyssa has pet eels named Aphrodite and Adonis and a boss named Persephone, BECAUSE SHE DOES. She’s so punk.

Thankfully, Alyssa is able to quickly solve her problem and finds a website about “netherlings” that leads her to clues in Lewis Carroll’s books that allow her to get to Wonderland Da Vinci Code style. Thanks Google, you’re the best for helping protagonists find out about their deep dark past and figure out how to deal with humans being impregnated by vampires. This is coincidentally Google’s new tagline.

When Alyssa and love-interest Jeb get to Wonderland, you think the plot would get better, but it doesn’t. Instead, Alyssa begins to unlock memories of her childhood and she is helped along in all her tasks by the disembodied voice of her childhood best friend Morpheus. Morpheus. Who happens to look just like Brandon Lee from The Crow. And no, that’s not something I construed through context clues, we are literally told that he looks just like the actor in The Crow. Except Morpheus’ face paint is his skin. His skin.

Wonderland is not the place we understand it to be, having been told to Lewis Carroll through the lens of a child who got everything slightly wrong. For example, the White Rabbit is a dwarfish skeletal creature actually named Rabid White. The Queen of Hearts is Queen Red, the March Hare is March Hairless and the Mad Hatter is really Herman Hattington. Pretty much, Howard took things from the awesome video-game American McGee’s Alice, added them to the painful Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (which she loved), filled the book with her OCs and called it a day. To much failure. She even ends the story with a plot that revolves around killing a nasty beastie with the vorpal sword.

Inside this much-altered Wonderland, Howard contrives many impossible tasks and pratfalls to bring Jeb and Alyssa closer together to help them express their undying love. This includes Alyssa accidentally falling into Jeb’s lap, injuring herself so he has to carry her Bodyguard style, doing seductive dances after falling into a pie that makes her crazy, and tripping onto his penis. Well, that last one might not have actually happened, but it might as well have.

Add in a convoluted plot that is incredibly complicated for no reason, time travel, magical matching birthmarks and ruining the only good character Morpheus by making him suddenly a neutral chaotic for no reason and you have one of my most painful reads of the year. It’s so bad it’s bad. And not even in that fun, guilty pleasure way that so many supernatural young adult books I often come across are.

 THE GOOD

  • Amazing job on the cover!
  • Heroine has the makings of being strong, almost gets there, kind of… eh…

THE BAD

  • Painful writing
  • Plodding plot
  • Alyssa borders painfully on being a Mary Sue
  • Suffers from trying way to hard to be hip and cool

For much better takes on the Alice genre, I highly recommend the original works: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. There are plenty of editions out there (I should know, I have 11 different ones), but I’m partial to Camille Rose Garcia’s illustrated version as well as the Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classics in pink and purple. It’s one of the few things B&N does right. Also check out Frank Beddor’s Looking Glass Wars, but stay as far away as possible from Alice in Zombieland.

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6 thoughts on “Not All Takes on Wonderland Are Good Takes on Wonderland: Cassie-la is Nonplussed by A.G. Howard’s ‘Splintered’

  1. I love Alice in Wonderland stuff too. Thanks for posting this because I am currently writing a book, an Alice-y book. I try to avoid the cliches and the plodding plot.

  2. I actually like the entire series. I’ve read all four books. Now some of the things you’ve pointed out are indeed true; the similar names of female lineage, repressed memories of the protagonist, the cliche of Jeb and Alyssa falling in love, and the impossible things she needs to do. And yes some parts are cringe worthy.
    Overall I still liked the books. I do appreciate your review of the book though. It was refreshing to see someone who didn’t care for it.

    • A lot of people seem to like this series (as well as Alice in Zombieland) but I just couldn’t seem to get into either of them. Oh well, you can’t like them all. The cover though? The cover is amazing.

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