Author: A.G. Howard
Genre: young-adult, supernatural, retelling
Pages: 384 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected January 1 2013
Source: publishers via NetGalley
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.
There are a number of things about Splintered that work very well - the concept retelling of Alice in Wonderland in a darker, much creepier version of the fantasy land, the lovely writing itself - but the things that didn't (the characters, oi, the characters!, and the first-person present tense used) ended up spoiling the rest of the novel for me personally. A.G. Howard is a new author that has promise, but this debut novel just didn't pan out for me during its nearly 400-page length. I will be interested to see where she goes following this, and will still probably attempt her next novel despite my less than enthusiastic reaction for this one.
From page 25, when obvious love interest and character Jeb is introduced to the plot, I started to have problems. I took issue with his personality and his proprietary and controlling interest in main character Alyssa's life. I Did Not Like: his pushy and possessive attitude, as well as what he does throughout the two's journey into Wonderland (his taken status against with his actions towards Alyssa). I can take a lot of bad if I like/care about the characters, but between Jeb's boorish presentation and Alyssa's often immature attitudes (and not to mention shady Morpheus's angle), I couldn't muster up enough energy to care about what happened to any of them. Alyssa's thoughts and reactions are all over the place - I just couldn't get a line on who she was, even 300 pages in. Jeb never grows from his initial appearance, and Morpheus... is an obvious creep.
Aside from some admittedly skilled writing, and some truly creative/creepy (creapy?) interpretations of Wonderland staples - the Rabid White, the zombified flowers - I wasn't ever engaged in the story being told. The reinvented ideas of Wonderland are interesting and fun, but they are nowhere near substantive enough to make me rate this any higher than a 2/5. I ended this underwhelmed, frustrated with a totally unnecessary love-triangle among one-dimensional and irritating characters, and disappointed that this highly-anticipated novel was such a letdown. I think I will be in the minority with my less than favorable opinion on Splintered, but if I can't connect to the characters, and though I can definitely appreciate the technical merits of the story, it's a miss for me.
Short story even shorter: brilliant concept, stuttered execution, poor character development. No, thank you.