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.
4 1/2 stars
Thanks to NetGalley and Amulet Books for this eARC! This title is now available.
I liked basically every Disney movie as a kid. Every one, that is, except for Alice in Wonderland. When the new fad became Alice retellings, I rolled my eyes and said, “There’s no way this goes well.” I still requested Splintered anyways.
Then I finally started reading.
Alyssa isn’t supposed to be Alice. Alice went and came back from Wonderland ages ago, and now her family has to deal with the notoriety of that fact—and the fact that all the women in her family since Alice had ended up locked away in asylums, if they didn’t kill themselves first. Alyssa’s mother has been committed for a great deal of Alyssa’s life, and Alyssa herself has just started hearing the voices of plants and bugs. She’s pretty sure she’s going to follow her mom shortly. She tries to make the voices stop by turning bugs into artwork and skateboarding with her iPod turned up. The other voice, the familiar and male one, that’s in her head all the time like a second consciousness isn’t helping matters, though.
And that is just the beginning.
Now, you may be able to understand how much I was drooling by this point already. This isn’t the Alice story of your childhood, people. Even when Alyssa gets to Wonderland, Howard turns all your preconceptions on your head. For just a teaser, you know the White Rabbit? Well, Alice messed up his name. He’s actually called White Rabid, and he’s partially a skeleton. You cannot tell me that isn’t an awesome way to go. You can’t.
I wish I could explain more of the twists, but then there would be spoilers and oh dear. But just know they’re SO AWESOME.
Besides all the things Howard has done to the world, I was also impressed by how layered the plot was. Morpheus—this hot fairy dude who Alice called the Caterpillar—is the mastermind behind everything that happens, but he is so good at keeping the truth concealed that you never know what’s actually going on until the end. Is he good? Is he bad? His character arc is a zigzag that doesn’t stop! (Well, until the end, but that would be a spoiler.)
I think most of the reason for the half star loss is the characterization of Morpheus and Alyssa’s other love interest, Jeb. Yes, other love interest. Morpheus yanks Alyssa’s chain so many times that I still don’t know what to think of him, and I never believed she could love him. Jeb, on the other hand, is the usual best friend/knight in shining armor. So, yeah, this love triangle has the requisite bad boy vs. good boy thing going on, which I don’t like. However, I will say that I did NOT expect the ending in anyway, so kudos for that.
At the end of the day, though, I cannot believe how much I liked this book. Despite being tied to a retelling, it was interesting and unique. The plot never ever stopped moving, and I was always kept guessing. If Alice in Wonderland is your thing, GET THIS. NOW. Even if it isn’t, though, and you’re looking to check out one of the new Alice books because you’re curious, this would be my pick FOR SURE!