When Alyssa starts hearing bugs and plants talk to her, she’s upset that she’s becoming just as mentally ill as her committed mother. Her great-great-great-grandmother was the Alice that inspired Lewis Carroll’s famous novel about Wonderland and, with that connection, the family seemingly has a curse on them dating that far back. Alyssa is determined to get her mother out of the asylum and finds that what she thought was reality and what she thought was fiction was about to be blurred. Trekking through a darker Wonderland than the books told, Alyssa faces some tough situations that test her wit and trust.
The cover of this book was what initially drew me in when it first came out last year. The colours on the cover are so vibrant and alluring, the purple text inside the book with chapter marker designs make for a beautiful presentation. The premise was definitely intriguing, with a Wonderland retelling. Unfortunately, I had a bit of a tough time getting into the story. The world building was beautiful and Howard’s twists in her interpretation of the land through the rabbit hole is a much darker version than the tale we all know. The way that Wonderland was depicted was so vivid and imaginative yet I could not look past the odd dynamics between Alyssa, her crush Jeb and the Willy Wonka (a la Johnny Depp)-esque character Morpheus.
I’m not one who turns her nose up at all love triangles, so I’m not making a general widespread comment here. I appreciate a good romantic tension among trios if it works with the story. This one, regardless if it was intentional or not, felt odd. I had a hard time understanding Alyssa’s motivations and there were so many descriptions of Morpheus’ attractiveness but he just came across as creepy to me. I didn’t buy any of the apparent feelings or jealousy. Alyssa and Jeb are skateboarders, with coloured hair extensions and facial piercings and I do like that the protagonists are a bit more alternative than the often-typical girl/guy-next-door YA character.
That being said, we did meet up for our Brunch Book Club earlier in the month, before I was done the book. Despite the fact that I hate spoilers, and even though Jenn (Lost in a Great Book) ended up filling me in on everything that happens, I did still feel compelled to finish it when I normally probably wouldn’t have. Up to the 2/3 that I was at, I felt pretty meh about it but it certainly picked up in the last 1/3. I can certainly see the appeal this book would have to many, especially those who love a good mystical, fantastical Wonderland story and I’m glad that I ended up enjoying it more as I kept reading.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ (3.5/5 stars)
Available: January 1, 2013
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Read as part of Brunch Book Club with Lost in a Great Book.
Wrap up discussion to follow in the coming week.