Honest and lively YA book reviews
Shit. Pretty much complete shit.
If you enjoy sexist bullcrap with an emphasis on over-bearing and aggressive romance coupled with a meandering, tissue-paper thin plot and populated with wisps of smoke on the breeze in place of supporting characters overseen by an unsettling puppet-master third-side of a hideous and oppressive triangle of love then by all means - be my guest and get ready to fall in love with Splintered by AG Howard. If, however, you are not a fan of fiction-for-the-insane and would prefer not to read a shoddy rehashing of Tim Burton's 2010 movie Alice mashed up with American McGee's awesome video game of the same name then this is really not the book for you.
Alyssa's family has a history of insanity, beginning it seems with Alyssa's great-great-great grandmother who was the inspiration behind Lewis Caroll's classic story of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. With Alyssa's mother incarcerated in the most ridiculous asylum I have ever had the misfortune of reading about (if a nurse were to casually wander around with an unprescribed and loaded syringe of some unspecified sedative just chilling in her pocket, believe me she'd me struck off sharpish) Alyssa dives back down the rabbit hole to Wonderland to right the wrongs of the past and break the curse of madness her family appears to be struck with.
Without a shadow of a doubt the worst this about this book is Jeb - Alyssa's romantic interest who is, for reasons dating Alyssa's mortal enemy, the cliché mean girl Taelor. Jeb is a vile character. He's violently controlling, aggressive and has zero respect for Alyssa, constantly talking over her, standing in front of her and disregarding what she's got to say. This book would have been infinitely more tolerable - not great, but tolerable - if Jeb had fallen off his skateboard at the beginning and just cracked his head on the sidewalk or something. But alas he remains unscathed enough to follow Alyssa down the rabbit hole accompanied by his much emphasised super alternative labret piercing and long, flowing locks held back off his face by a sweaty rag, where he proceeds to hang over Alyssa's shoulder at every turn. I really wish Jeb would just fuck off somewhere - he's an overbearing, self-righteous jumped-up little prick who seems to delight in ordering Alyssa to stand quietly in a corner until the dust settles and the Men can take care of the problems her weak little lady arms are too delicate to tackle. If he could put her on a leash with a piece of tape over her mouth I'm sure he would.
Alyssa herself isn't much better. She's a wet dishrag masquerading as some cool, alternative, skateboarding artist; her eyes ringed in black felt tip with blue clip-on dreadlocks stuck in her head. Her forced charade of alternative-chic felt so clunky and awkward I was embarrassed for her - I was actually embarrassed for a fictional character.
With the first 20% of the book used to outline Alyssa tedious and sad little life, putting much emphasis on she and Taelor's make-believe and entirely unfounded rivalry I had all my hopes stored in the book heating up once Alyssa dove down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. I needn't have gotten excited. The book rather swiftly descended into what can only be described as a shit-storm of angst, soggy romance and running. Just running from one scenario to the next in a string of poorly plotted shenanigans and culminating in one of the most confusing and frustrating finales ever to grace the pages of YA literature. What. The. Fuck. Was. Going. On.
Jeb becomes almost frighteningly fixated on Alyssa, her safety and, bizarrely her virginity the moment their feet touch down in Wonderland. Having paid her little attention in the real world he suddenly is inexplicably and irrevocably in love with her, and Taelor fades to no more than a point of almost constant conflict between them. Alyssa and Jeb are standing in the desert, hotly pursued by a pack of murderous cards hungry for their blood (yeah, just go with it) and all these two dumb kids can find to chat about is where their relationship is headed.
"Out of what?" The pain in his voice rips me apart. "Stay out of your plan to hook up with some random loser, or stay out of your life."
"Did he touch you? Hurt you?" Jeb whispers in the silence.
"No. He was a gentleman."
Jeb frowns. "You mean a gentleroach ."
"Some perv lured you here via a magical website?"
Why doesn't Jeb shut the fuck up about who and who doesn't get into Alyssa's pants ?!!. It's really not his goddam business. I hated the undertone of the value of innocence and how important it is to maintain one's purity in this book - keep that shit away from me!! It's garbage and it's damaging. There's nothing wrong with exploring sexuality as long as it's safe and consenting. There's nothing magical about being a virgin, and there's nothing wrong with losing this status. Jeb's accusations and slut-shaming just seem to fly out of nowhere with absolutely zero relevance to what's happening around him. Yeah, way to shoehorn in your message there Ms Howard.
Altogether I just found Jeb to be exhausting and infuriating so when Morpheus rocks up I perked up a bit, thinking he would add some kind of intriguing angle to the story. Nope. Morpheus made my head spin. Apparently he was Alyssa's childhood guide to Wonderland through the medium of dreams? And he is also a giant blue moth? And are they in love? Or are they not in love? Who the fuck knows. Alyssa and Morpheus' relationship is super confusing:
"Raising one hand, he tilts his hat to that sexy slant. "You want me. Admit it."
Even if he's partly right, I'll never tell him. "Why would I want you?"
He lifts three fingers to countdown. "Mysterious. Rebellious. Troubled. All those qualities women find irresistible."
"Such an optimist."
"My cup is never empty."
"Too bad your brain is." The words bite, but my smile softens with affection."
What is this ?!! Alyssa seemed trapped in a near constant to and fro of love and hate with Morpheus. She seems incapable of deciding how she feels about him. I know how I feel - Morpheus is a controlling, self-absorbed and vindictive creep. Everything he does is for his own benefit dressed up to look like he actually gives a fuck about Alyssa's fate. The book totally lost me around two thirds in when Morpheus' loyalties seemed to switch every other page.
The plot became so convoluted, confusing and diluted by revolting teen romance heading straight towards a future involving domestic abuse charges, that I don't even know what the fuck was going on. It seems there were an awful lot of grand ideas involved in this sad retelling that just weren't pulled off. The supporting characters were never fleshed out properly and seemed to only very vaguely resemble the characters from the original story. There was literally nothing here that interested me. Nothing. The book became a real chore to wade though and I actually had to go to library and sit in a corner with my phone turned off, my chair tuned towards a blank white wall in order to finish the damn thing. Even the slight distraction of seeing a seagull flying around outside was enough for my attention to start wandering as the book descended into describing everyone's clothes in minute detail or again having Jeb and Alyssa bicker about their relationship status. It was mind-numbing.
I'm so disappointed. I love Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and the theatre of this book really had me deceived - the cover is lush, the paper is quality and the print is dark purple. Fantastic!! Shame that the content beneath this cover-of-lies is sexist, rambling, so-boring-I-wanted-to-eat-my-face, purple-prose shit.
Over and out friends !!