“Mad” or “Yay for Books That Don’t Drive Me Crazy!”

Confession: I’ve never read Lewis Carroll’s classic works. Seen a good half-dozen movies based on Alice’s adventures in Wonderland and/or through the Looking Glass? Yes. Read the originals, no. Of course, to hear some novels tell it, it’s not like Carroll got the story right, anyway…

Splintered cover pic

The Book: “Splintered” by A.G. Howard.

Genre: Young-Adult Fantasy.

Blurb: Alyssa Gardner hears the thoughts of plants and insects. She hides her delusions for now, but she knows her fate: she will end up like her mother, in an institution. Madness has run in her family since her great-great-great-grandmother Alice Liddell told Lewis Carroll her strange dreams, inspiring his classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

But perhaps she’s not mad. And perhaps Carroll’s stories aren’t as whimsical as they first seem.

To break the curse of insanity, Alyssa must go down the rabbit hole and right the wrongs of Wonderland, a place full of strange beings with dark agendas. Alyssa brings her real-world crush – the protective Jeb – with her, but once her journey begins, she’s torn between his solidity and the enchanting, dangerous magic of Morpheus, her guide to Wonderland.

But no one in Wonderland is who they seem to be – not even Alyssa herself…

My Thoughts: So I won this book in some giveaway somewhere (perhaps I ought to keep track of such things, but clearly I don’t), got a whiff of the premise, and thought, okay, this book could be cool… but will it deliver?

Short answer: Yeah, I’d say so.

Long answer: What struck me most about this author’s handling of the story is that she almost always managed to pull back from the brink of making me mad – angry, crazy, or otherwise. It should be known books can easily rub me the wrong way, and while I try to go into every new tale with an open mind, it often isn’t long before I can’t see the forest for the non-engaging and/or downright irksome tress. So let’s break “Splintered” down so I can show you where A.G. Howard went right.

We’ve got Alyssa and Jeb – girl and boy who’ve been crushing on each other forever and have yet to do anything about it. That can get old real quick. But then, hey! – Alyssa and Jeb spend time together and start talking more or less honestly with each other and adventure together in the story’s fantasy realm! I love it when characters are given the chance to communicate…and then take that chance!

Then there’s the love triangle. Perhaps on the day I have two crazy-attractive guys fighting over me, I will cease rolling my eyes at this YA plot staple, but in the meantime, *rolls eyes*. And yet, throwing Morpheus into the mix didn’t have me going, “Oh, please, go away and leave the high school sweethearts in peace.” For one thing, he didn’t just show up out of nowhere and start jacking things up; he and Alyssa had some legitimate history going on (which I won’t go into; spoilers and all that), which contributed to Alyssa’s dual feelings on the matter actually making some solid sense. For another thing, I liked the guy. He’s a mystery and a paranormal weirdo who you suspect to be lying as often as telling the truth, and… that worked for me. Plus he has wings and an accent and wears hats; awesome points all. So while I wouldn’t say I was rooting for him to nab the coveted Love Interest spot, I did want him to stick around and, y’know, not get his head ripped off by a Jabberwocky* or something.

*(For the record, there wasn’t exactly a Jabberwocky in this book. But there was a walrus monster with tentacles, and isn’t that, like, twenty times as cool?)

This book being about Wonderland, there was naturally a hefty dose of dreamlike madness that I’m not sure I was always able to perfectly wrap my mind around. Part of that may have had to do with my pretty consistently waiting until past my bedtime to breeze through a few chapters. Still, since the story kept moving at a decent pace and, as I said, characters were communicating, being sexy in hats, and having tentacles, I wasn’t much bothered by the bits that went over my head. I’m not a reader who needs every little question tidily answered, just the pressing ones, and I never felt that I was missing anything crucial, so I let my occasional “huh?” moments slide.

The only aspects of the book that crossed a line with me were the overemployment of the word “appendage” (I get that we don’t want to say “wing” and “tongue” and stuff three times in the same sentence, but by the end of the book, every instance of this substitute of choice was like a poke in the eye), and the overeager and less than subtle attempts to establish Alyssa as strong, capable, far from helpless, yadda-blah-etc. Yeah, I get it, empowered females and stuff, but I dunno, whenever Alyssa narrated something like, “I realized no one was going to come to my rescue. I needed to be strong and save myself,” it sounded less to me like how a girl actually thinks, and more like how she’s told to think. And since thinking what people say you’re supposed to is like the opposite of empowerment, in my eyes, I trust you can see why that didn’t sit right with me. Apart from that, though, no major complaints.

Unhinged cover pic

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): Go for it. I felt the concept was handled with originality and, in general, deftly skirted the pitfalls that would have shaken off my interest. That giveaway that won me “Splintered” also came with a Barnes & Noble gift card to pick up the sequel, “Unhinged”. More Morpheus, you say? Don’t mind if I do…

4 thoughts on ““Mad” or “Yay for Books That Don’t Drive Me Crazy!”

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