Publication date: 1st January 2013
Published by: Amulet Books
Genre: Fantasy (YA)
I am not one to be easily charmed by an attractive book cover, but I must admit I was by this one. In fact, it is one of the most impressive covers I have come across. Okay yes, it consists of yet another pretty girl – but there is a darkness to it; she looks like she could have psychotic tendencies, which leaves you curious. Not only does it draw you in, but it is also very telling. Hmm... curiouser and curiouser.
The premise of the story is that Alyssa Gardner is a descendant of the real Alice – the one that inspired the novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. For some reason the female descendants (Alice’s granddaughter, great-granddaughter and great-great-granddaughter) seem to suffer from madness. The first sign, the ability to hear and understand plants and insects, manifests itself at puberty, which was the case for Alyssa. Alyssa’s mother, Alison (Alice’s great-great-granddaughter), is in a psychiatric hospital about to undergo electric shock treatment that could leave her permanently brain damaged, which Alyssa cannot accept. She is terrified that this will also be her fate.
A supernatural creature that appears as a moth but can take human form reveals itself to Alyssa. He seems familiar to her and she starts to remember him from her childhood and realises he once visited her regularly; that they were childhood friends but somehow her memory of him had been lost. His name is Morpheus and he is central to the main plot. Alyssa discovers that her mother is not mad but cursed - along with all of Alice’s descendants, that the rabbit hole and Wonderland exist, and by finding them she will find Morpheus who will help her break the curse, save her mother and herself…
The beginning of the book provides us with Alyssa’s back story but with a major emphasis on her relationship with the object of her desire, Jeb Holt. Jeb is the boy next door (literally). They have known each other since they were kids and were once close. Jeb is dating the popular rich girl, Taelor, who has tormented Alyssa throughout high school for her connection with crazy Alice and this has caused Alyssa and Jeb to be distant. It is quite obvious that Alyssa and Jeb are in love (there are plenty of examples where Jeb demonstrates his devotion), so I was left wondering why the hell he was with someone else. Aside from aiding the romantic plot, i.e., creating a situation where there can be sexual tension between Alyssa and Jeb. Admittedly there is a justification for them not to get it together (i.e. they both have emotional baggage), which I could go along with, but the explanation for Jeb being with Taelor is unconvincing.
For me things got interesting when Morpheus seeks Alyssa out and lures her down the rabbit hole. Jeb, who was spying on her, follows and they both find themselves in Wonderland.
The plot is original and clever (although I had some issues*) and there are a few twists and turns that aren’t easy to second guess. In that sense it is a really good read. [Can you feel a BUT coming on?] But for me it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. It would seem that, generally speaking, young-adult fantasy novels have a check-list and Splintered ticked the boxes. Two that come to mind are:
- · The alpha male love interest who is dominating and over-protective
- · The obligatory love triangle (that always plays out the same way)
I would not say that Alyssa is a damsel-in-distress type but she sure is treated as though she is by Jeb. Like Christian Grey (from ‘50 Shades of’, which is not a YA fantasy novel but is based on one and follows the same format), Jeb Holt is a pseudo Edward Cullen (from Twilight) and like Mr Grey he cannot pull it off. The only reason Edward Cullen gets away with being an alpha male who is dominating and over-protective (and I appreciate many don’t agree that he does get away with it) is because of what he is (i.e. it has to do with the nature of a vampire and how they perceive humans. EC tries to suppress his natural urges but his personality reflects what he is).
Although the central plot is original, I could not help but draw parallels with Twilight and Wicked Lovely (the scene in Morpheus' bedroom with the melding of birthmarks was very similar to one that occurred between Aislinn and Keenan). If you’re into those books and you can’t get enough of that stuff, you’ll probably like this one.
*Jeb’s mother and sister rely on him to work and support them. Protecting them is paramount to him, yet he is about to quit his job and go off to London (courtesy of financial support from his girlfriend’s Dad – so he’s an alpha male who is not too proud to be taken care of).
*The medical justification for the cause of Alison’s symptoms, i.e. adverse effects of the sedative, is unrealistic. That’s not how it works – thankfully.