Monday, May 20, 2013
Book Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard
Alyssa Gardner has always been that girl to everyone else, the girl whose ancestor was none other than the Alice Liddell from Lewis Carroll's whimsical tale of Wonderland. The freak. But what everyone doesn't know is that Alyssa hears the whispers of insects and flowers--precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. Alyssa might really 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'd dismissed as fiction is based on a terrifying reality, one that she has to face soon. The real Wonderland is far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll made it out to be, and Alyssa has to pass a series of tests to fix Alice's mistakes and save her family. Or she may be stuck there, trapped, forever.
One of the most obvious aspects of "Splintered" that I have to talk about is the world. At first, I was a little skeptical of a darker twist on the "Alice in Wonderland" story. I'm not exactly a punky/dark side kinda gal, but I will willingly admit that there is some incredible world building going on in the novel. I liked how Ms. Howard took the characters of the classic tale and warped them into strange and grotesque creatures, like how the fluffy White Rabbit became Rabid White, a skeletal being with antlers protruding from its skull. There's definitely a huge amount of imagination in this book, from the eerie speech patterns of the sprites who work at the cemetery to the tantalizingly dark and twisted Wonderland itself. The world that Ms. Howard brings to life is so full of magic and secrets, one that's sordid but at the same time beautiful in its own way.
Another thing I appreciated about "Splintered" was the lyrical writing style of Ms. Howard. The language used to describe the beautifully constructed Wonderland was magical in its own right. It was expressive and evocative, without being too purple. I felt like the descriptions didn't overshadow what was going on in the story too much, though I do think that things would've been a little more fast-paced had Ms. Howard cut down just a little on the words at times. I was pretty bored throughout the first 3/4 of the book, and things only picked up when the puzzle pieces started falling into place.
Having said all of this, I have to say that I didn't find "Splintered" as fun and compelling as it could've been, and I think the reason behind this lies in the characters of the novel. I'll start off with the main dame of the story: Alyssa. Alyssa is definitely not your typical YA heroine. She deals with potential mental issues, skateboards in a cool, neon skate park called Underworld, and wears tutu skirts with neon tights. I don't know whether it's because I'm anything but punk/alternative/I don't really know the proper word for it, but I couldn't really relate to Alyssa. Or maybe it was Jeb. Sure, he's protective and all, but in a way he was almost controlling. And he has a complete queen bee witch as a girlfriend back home, but he reveals that he doesn't really even like her and instead loves Alyssa? Not cool, dude. Even Morpheus, the twisted, complex, seems-to-be-evil guy is better than him.
Overall, "Splintered" by A.G. Howard has some amazing potential, with a lyrical writing style that really brings to life this macabre and grotesque version of Wonderland. But what really turned me off the book were the main characters, who weren't very relatable or particularly likable, even. I have, however, read many, many good reviews on the novel, so I'd give the first few chapters a go, just to see whether it's to your liking!