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Book Spotlight: SPLINTERED by A. G. Howard


I am so excited for this book, you guys! A. G. Howard has been one of my dearest writer friends ever since I met her in the blogosphere the first time I started blogging, which was in April 2011. Almost 2 years ago! Imagine that! Before Splintered came out, heck, before Amulet bought it, I was already sure that Ms. Howard was going to blow our minds away with her literary prowess. And I’m glad to have been proven right!

 Blurb and image from Goodreads:

 

 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.

 

About the Author:

A.G. Howard is most at home when weaving the melancholy and macabre into settings and scenes, twisting the expected into the unexpected. She was inspired to write SPLINTERED while working at a school library. She always wondered what would’ve happened had the subtle creepiness of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland taken center stage, and she hopes her darker and funkier tribute to Carroll will inspire readers to seek out the stories that won her heart as a child.
A.G.’s pastimes are reading, rollerblading, gardening, and family vacations which often include impromptu side trips to 18th century graveyards or condemned schoolhouses to appease her overactive muse.

You can find her online at her website, blog, and on Twitter (@aghowardwrites).

 
The Book: YA Fantasy

Splintered is a wonderfully macabre reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s version of Wonderland. While the world of Wonderland is taken on a new spin with darker settings and Tim Burton-esque creatures, I feel like the original sense of charm and adventure that is inherent in Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is still very much present in this book.

Alyssa Gardner’s biggest fear is to end up like her mother: a resident of Soul’s Asylum with talking bugs and flowers for company. But all too soon, Alyssa finds herself hearing the bugs and flowers talk. The curse of madness that has plagued the women in her family for generations is inescapable—unless she goes down the rabbit hole to right the wrongs her great-great-grandmother Alice Lidell, the original Alice, had caused in Wonderland. While Alyssa’s personal motivation is to keep herself from going insane, she’s also determined to save her mother from a life of straitjackets and electroshock treatments. There is also history between mother and daughter that has shaped their present-day relationship into something unnatural and guarded. For one thing, Alyssa refers to her mother by her name, instead of calling her “mom”. But despite their fractured relationship, Alyssa’s love for her mother drives her to find a way to get to Wonderland and sort out the curse once and for all. I feel like this is the core and heart of the story—that just as much as Alyssa needed to correct Alice’s mistakes, she also needed to fix her connection to her mother.

We also have two swoon-worthy love interests: Jeb, the longtime best friend; and Morpheus, a denizen of Wonderland who was a part of Alyssa’s childhood. While Jeb insists on being Alyssa’s protective knight, Morpheus endeavors to bring Alyssa to her full potential, even to the point of madness. I thought both characters were good foils for each other, and their reactions to Alyssa were, for the most part, entertaining. J

Wonderland is not what we’ve thought it to be. Ms. Howard’s vivid imagination and sensorial prose has brought to life a truly cinematic vision of a world that’s filled with strangeness, madness, and beauty, offering us a peek into the darker side of ourselves.

Splintered has a little something for everyone: romance, adventure, mystery, and plot twists to keep you up on your toes.   

8 comments:

Jessie Humphries said...

That is one cool A cover! I totally dig it.

LTM said...

Yay for Anita! AND! It's such a gorgeous book. So happy for her~ :o) <3

Daniel Benny Simanjuntak said...

The book description, for once, is perfect. This is a stunning debut, and it does capture the grotesque madness of a magical and much-loved world.

A. G. Howard puts her own delightful twist on the story behind the story, and begins her adventure with the mystery of Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. With this dash of originality, we are introduced to a contemporary fantasy, one that involves another tumble into the rabbit hole, this time with Alyssa Gardner and her good friend Jeb. There are the echoes of familiar characters, from the White Rabbit, to the Caterpillar and his hookah. We have the kings and the queens, and the remnants of Alice’s tears. There is even a splendid nod to the tea party and the Mad Hatter. Howard's rendition is not lacking in creativity, and features a sea of tears, giant spider-women, an octo-walrus and many, many other outrageous and wild things. It is exciting and mad, in exactly the way I expect all Wonderland retellings to be.

Without distracting from the splendour of the story, a romance builds between Alyssa and Jeb. While not without complications and teenage angst, it is a sweet and modern romance, filled with satisfying tension and emotion. Be warned, this is not a perfect romance between perfect people. It is dramatic, sometimes very much so, and if that is not something you can tolerate, or remotely enjoy reading about, tread carefully with Splintered. There is also – cue the groans – a light love triangle. I live to bitch about love triangles (really, I do) but, surprisingly, I was happy to accept (too strong a word?) the situation in this book because I knew I would get my way in the end. Let me put it this way. If you enjoyed Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo regardless of the love triangle, then I have no doubt you will be tolerant of the romantic plot in this book too. If it is any consolation, it does not take anything away from the magic of the overall story. If anything, it adds to it.

The main characters, Alyssa, Jeb and Morpheus, are all likeable, or at least, intriguing. Alyssa’s initial quirkiness sprouts from her ability to hear the whispers of insects and the flutter of wings. While her decisions are not always easy to appreciate, she is a delightful and brave protagonist and not difficult to warm to. Morpheus is seduction and mystery, expertly wrapped into a dark, enticing package. He is the other love interest, a constant enigma, and his role not quite as exasperating as you might imagine. Jeb, however, is my favourite. While he is evidently ruled by his emotions, and sometimes not in the most positive of ways, it is testament to Howard’s characterisation skills that he remains appealing throughout, despite the obvious flaws. Admittedly, his protectiveness over Alyssa is, at times, constricting and unrealistic, but not so much so that I failed to enjoy the story because of it.

I initially, perhaps too soon, rated this book 5 stars. Upon reflection, however, I realise it is not faultless and do have to admit that the ending is... not quite what I needed. Regardless, I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed A.G. Howard’s debut novel and could not have hoped for a better renewal of a favourite classic. This is a book best suited to readers who do not tire of adventurous plots, and who are inclined to decent-sized portions of romance. And, of course, this is a book for those longing to hurdle head-first into the surreal madness of Wonderland.


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Cheryl said...

Lovely cover!

Anita Grace Howard said...

*hugs you* Sparkle pants! Thank you so much for posting about Splintered! Sorry I didn't see it sooner. #goatwub you! <3

Bethany Crandell said...

Everything about this post makes me smile.

J. A. Bennett said...

I saw her book at Barnes and Noble and freaked out. My husband thought I was crazy.

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