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Splintered by A.G Howard Review +YA Tropes
The pacing at the beginning was very well done and kept attention. The protagonist was immediately interesting and unique enough for readers to cheer her on. That being said, I'm sorry to say that this is definitely not one of my favorite Alice in Wonderland remakes, nor one I would recommend. The following explains why.
Splintered is a Young Adult fantasy novel spin-off of Alice in Wonderland in which the main character, Alyssa, is a descendant of Alice Lidell herself and has to stop her family's curse in Wonderland before her mother is injured or killed by the treatments that are planned for her at the asylum she's locked up in.
I will never, ever get tired of Alice in Wonderland remakes. I live and breathe for them. I love them.
That being said, this is my least favorite remake of the original masterpiece, and here's a few reasons why.
When the story begins, you're immediately caught up in Alyssa's world of talking bugs and morbid art. It was a unique spin of the tale, and a rare addition to a protagonist. Usually the protagonist doesn't have such morbid tendencies in YA, but Alyssa's a little bug murderer and that was just a refreshing surprise.
As the book goes on, however, the reader begins to question Alyssa as a protagonist, and where her priorities really lie.
Clothes and make up and more clothes and make up
One of the first annoying parts of this book that I noticed was the descriptions of the clothes. Almost every time someone changes, the author describes exactly what they are wearing. She even describes the type of makeup they put on.
"I open my compact and apply a smear of kohl eye shadow atop what's already there, and then elongate the outside corner like a cat's eye. Once I finish both eyes with a sweep along the bottom lashes, my ice-blue irises stand out against the black like a fluorescent shirt beneath the UV lights at Underland."- Splintered, Chapter 2, page 25
In this instance it was slightly more excusable because directly after she puts on the makeup, someone makes a comment about how hard she is trying to not look like her mother. But still, the brand is unimportant and most other instances unwarranted makeup or clothing description completely.
Priorities and YA Tropes
If a young adult trope ever existed, you'll most likely find it between the pages of this book. The love triangles, the mismatched priorities--female protagonists not knowing what they want.
The one thing that bothers me about this book and young adult books more than any other is the "I don't understand my feelings" trope that almost every single female protagonist suffers from. For example, Alyssa has lived in a contemporary setting for her entire life--around seventeen or eighteen. There is no possible way that she does not know what a crush is or what it feels like to be physically attracted to someone. Even despite the allusions to her previous crush on Jeb, Alyssa's inner monologue still becomes confused when her skin grows hot when he touches her.
But then, suddenly, later in the book when they have an intimate moment, she knows exactly what it feels like--because he's doing it intentionally. This makes no sense, and I'm tired of seeing it in YA books. In certain circumstances--such as in Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, where the protagonist had had little to no interaction with males that weren't violent--it makes sense, but this is not one of them.
Alyssa's priorities are also called into question when she travels to Wonderland through a mirror. She's there to save her mother, yet once she realizes that her love interest came along with her, her inner dialogue is a constant struggle between making the moves on him and not throwing herself at him because he's taken.
She's just been transported to a mystical place that she'd never thought existed, yet her thoughts consists of, "no, don't do that because he's moving to England with his girlfriend". Neither of them even know if they're going to get out of Wonderland alive, yet she's constantly concerned with him moving to England and banging his girlfriend in a penthouse. Not to mention that she becomes jealous and protective, and only really takes charge of the situation in a moment where she thinks he's going to have an orgy with some sprites. No, I'm not kidding.
These moments and thoughts aren't done to shed a bad light on Alyssa for having mixed up priorities, either-- they're described as though all of her thoughts and actions are completely logical in the situation she's in. This being said, Alyssa's not exactly a role model.
Basically, when reading I felt like the entire novel was a romance story masquerading as an Alice in Wonderland fantasy.
Even when in Wonderland--or maybe especially--the protagonist is on an emotional roller coaster that doesn't actually involve the fact that she's there because of her mother.
Instead she's dragged into a love triangle between the rugged skater boy with piercings who belongs to someone else and has father issues, and the moth-type-but-also-suave-young-man who was her childhood friend. Personally, I hate love triangles, so you can see why I dreaded this piece when I saw it coming. It may not have been so bad, had it not taken up the entirety of the story.
The fact that Alyssa is there to save her family from her curse is simply a backstory to her struggling feelings for the two men. So instead of inner turmoil about her fate, which would have been completely reasonable, you get some steamy moments between Alyssa and both of her romantic interests.
One of the biggest flaws in the book that I found was the return of Alyssa's "memories". In the beginning, Alyssa has no idea what her mother is talking about, and doubts that Wonderland is even real.
Suddenly, a hundred pages in, the reader is supposed to believe that Alyssa was taken to Wonderland in her dreams by her childhood friend--who she didn't remember until in Wonderland--and suddenly, she remembers everything about the place. This completely takes away any interest the reader would have had in discovering the world because if a question pops up, Alyssa already knows the answer.
The end is what almost infuriated me. Instead of ending with a cool allusion to the trouble not being over--some new threat in Wonderland popping up--Alyssa is sent back to the real world with her main love interest, Jeb, not remembering anything that happened. That was enraging, anyway, but then it ends with Alyssa basically slapping Jeb's girlfriend in the face with words and kissing him right on the mouth. She talks on the phone to her mom, and immediately runs off to find the guy. The end. Happy story? It reminds me of old nineties shows or movies where, in the end, the guy gets the girl/girl gets the guy by yelling at some people and kissing their crush right on the lips. It wasn't believable then, and it's even less likely now.
What's Your Favorite Alice in Wonderland Remake?
All in all, if you like reading about mystical places and love triangles and Alice in Wonderland-type happenings, by all means read this book! The writing itself is very good and it will keep your attention.
It has not, however, managed to dethrone The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor from its place as my favorite Alice in Wonderland remake. I will continue the search, so until next time!