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Staff Picks: “Splintered” by A. G. Howard

I’ve always been intrigued by idea of falling down a rabbit hole to discover an otherworldly realm full of magical creatures, so I was excited to read Splintered by A. G. Howard, an updated re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland.

Alyssa is a skateboarding artist who makes murals out of dead bugs she captures herself. She hears the voices of flowers. She is also the descendant of Alice Liddell, the little girl who inspired Lewis Carroll’s original Alice in Wonderland. A curse has followed the female descendants of the original Alice, which manifests as mental illness. Alyssa’s mother is so disturbed she is often not lucid and appears to be a danger to herself, and her father has finally signed off on giving her electroshock therapy. In order to save her mom from that fate, Alyssa follows a few clues left by a strange moth through the looking glass in an attempt to right the wrongs Alice left in Wonderland and reverse the curse on her family. Jeb, the boy-next-door she’s crushing on, follows her, and crazy Wonderland antics ensue.

And this trip to Wonderland is crazy. And bizarre. And downright mad.  Alyssa has a series of trials she must get through in order to save Wonderland — draining the sea of tears, waking up the sleeping guests of the Mad Hatter’s tea party, and other familiar scenes from the original, now with a new, dark twist. She has her fellow skater to help her, not to mention that moth, who turns out to be Morpheus, a strange and sexy Wonderland creature also vying for Alyssa’s affection. In fact, though Jeb and her are determined to make it out of Wonderland, Morpheus may want her to stay and Alyssa’s connection to this dark, magical underworld may be more than her heritage.

It’s no wonder Tim Burton gets a nod in the acknowledgments, because it definitely has that grotesquely beautiful feeling his work always does, and if it were ever adapted for film, it would have to be done in the style of The Nightmare Before Christmas. This is a story I think would have done very well as a graphic or illustrated novel, because the text is full of so much visual description. The imagery is at times overwhelming. There are dazzling description of the landscape of Wonderland, and the unique circus punk fashion of Alyssa and Jeb (whose style seems perfectly in harmony with that of Wonderland) is detailed. You’ll never think about the White Rabbit, the Red Queen, the Mad Hatter, or the Chesire Cat the same way after meeting them in Splintered.

Melissa Marr  raved about Splintered and says it is perfect for fans of her Wicked Lovely series. Teen readers who are looking for a new twist on paranormal romance and enjoy a good love triangle should check it out. While this isn’t a story for everyone, fans of retellings will enjoy this dark and fantastical Wonderland as re-imagined by A. G. Howard.

–Molly, YA staff

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