Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard

19 January, 2013 Reviews 15 comments

I received this book for free from NetGalley, Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Splintered by A.G. HowardSplintered by A.G. Howard
Series: Splintered #1
Published by Amulet Books on 1st January 2013
Pages: 371
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Young Adult
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley, Publisher
Amazon Good BooksBook Depository

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. 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.

Okay, so here is a little truth for you: There is no other children’s tale that scared me most as a child than Alice in Wonderland.* I will never forget the first time I heard the story. It was by way of my grandmother and these cassette tapes she bought me called Porch Swing Stories. It was very generous of her, but let me tell you, those tapes were the devil. Pretty much all of the stories were purposefully cranked up in the creepy department and I’m convinced that the person who created such torture devices never interacted with a child. Later, I saw the Disney movie version of the tale and was further traumatized by the damn Cheshire Cat, who was just a little too happy for my taste, and his Wonderland posse. I mean, what was their problem anyway?

Well, I guess that explains it…

Obviously, since losing my heart and soul (as Kat frequently reminds me), being afraid of Alice in Wonderland is no longer an issue for me. But besides that less than disturbing fact, I had to read Splintered because A) The cover is to die for B) The cover is to die for C) The cover is to die for. This level of novel vetting always works for me. That is, except when it doesn’t, but that’s besides the point. Splintered brings such a unique spin on Alice in Wonderland with rich world building, re-imagined characters and a clever plot.

Alyssa Gardener, our protagonist, has a family history of insane women all starting with Alice Liddell. In fact, even her very own mother, who she distantly refers to as Allison, is committed at an asylum. With her strange ability to hear the whispers of flowers and bugs, Alyssa fears she is soon to follow. However, her true fear is ultimately losing her mother to the madness unless she can somehow break the Liddell curse. So she gathers family trinkets (a key, mirror, gloves, hair pin, etc.), repeats history and travels down the rabbit hole only to find it’s not exactly the same Wonderland described in the famous story.

If you are one who, unlike myself, knows the original Alice in Wonderland pretty well, then I think you’ll be very pleased with what Splintered has to offer. Right from the beginning when we are introduced to Alyssa Gardener, I could see the subtle references. But, of course, simply mentioning pieces of the original isn’t enough to make it feel authentic. There’s the vivid descriptions, character mannerisms and, of course, Wonderland-like puzzles and riddles. And that is where I think Howard truly excelled with this novel. She effortlessly wove in the old with the new. So instead of it feeling like a simple retelling, it’s more along the lines of an extension of the original because it’s clear that Howard left no stone unturned when it came to crafting the her Wonderland.

If that isn’t enough to entice you, there’s also this gothic feel the novel carries, especially in the beginning when the mystery of Alyssa’s past is at it’s strongest. Alyssa the skater girl, who likes to wear colored dreds and collects moths for artistic collages. Little things like that added a certain level of charm, but also helped Splintered to stand out as taking a slightly different route as a retelling.

Now, while I’ve been singing praises left and right about Splintered, there are a few things that bothered me. However, I should note that it did not detract from my personal enjoyment from the novel much.

The Characters:

My biggest problem would have to be Jeb, Alyssa’s best friend. I can understand what Howard was going for with his characterization. Present the reader with a character who has to have some type of control over the main character to help show her resulting personal growth by the end of the novel. At least, that’s what I got from it. Unfortunately, this did not work out for me. Why? Because 90% of the time I found Jeb to be a controlling douche. In the beginning, Alyssa wants to go to London to study art, so her dad and Jeb sit down for dinner to decide if she can go. Did I mention that he is only a year older than her and the love interest of the story? Yeah… I wasn’t exactly thrilled with him having so much say in the matter. Yet, I tried to like Jeb. Tried and failed. Every time he went missing from the storyline, I felt myself really enjoying the book, but when he returned? Nosedive. By the end of the book, the only way to describe how I felt for him is to simply say I tolerated him. Basically, I went from stabby feelings to an eye roll whenever his character had dialogue.

Even still was his girlfriend, who has a history of bullying Alyssa. Jeb seems to never defend his best friend, but instead expects Alyssa to try harder with getting along. >_> What’s worse is that Alyssa never really calls him on that. Why should Alyssa have to play nice with a bully? More importantly, why would her best friend ask that of her and never say anything to his girlfriend?

The good thing is that once Alyssa got to Wonderland the annoyances decreased significantly. Alyssa’s characterization picks up and we are introduced to Morpheus. And this might surprise some that know my tastes, but I kinda liked the guy. I think his twisted personality fit in perfectly with Wonderland. But I do think the reason why he didn’t bother me is because I never truly saw him as a contender for Alyssa’s heart. I saw that he had feelings for her and that they shared a connection, but I never thought it would go further than that.

Overall, if you are looking for a richly imagined retelling of Alice in Wonderland, Splintered is definitely the way to go. I had a few mild reservations, but I think most people will probably enjoy seeing just how deep the rabbit hole truly goes. I did and I can’t wait to see what future works Howard has planned.

*Hopefully I didn’t lose too many cool points with you for that strange, compulsive confession.

ARC was received from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review. Thank you!

Steph Sinclair

Steph Sinclair

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
I'm a bibliophile trying to make it through my never-ending To-Be-Read list, equal opportunity snarker, fangirl and co-blogger here at Cuddlebuggery. Find me on GoodReads.

15 Responses to “Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard”

  1. geobobspinelli

    YES, FELLOW JEB HATER. I am Team Morpheus, even though I didn’t think he would end up being a love interest for Alyssa, either. But I still loved him to pieces! 
    The world building was what really sold me on this one. It was beautiful!

  2. Anna

    Oh thank God, I’m glad you liked this one! I’ve heard such mixed things, but if you like it then it has to be good, right? I’m going to have to start this one soon! Great review!
    <a href=””>Literary Exploration</a>

  3. Shelver506

    Oh my gosh, yes. The Disney version FREAKED ME OUT as a kid. It was never a fun experience… and yet I watched it more than once. Weird, right? I had an awful flashback to that movie when the octobenus elicited the same reaction from me. I nearly threw the book.

    • heykelley

      I meant to elaborate more but I didn’t have time.
      It’s funny, as a kid I absolutely LOVED Disney’s version of Alice in Wonderland and I still have some parts of it memorized. But now as an adult, for some reason I find it really creepy and don’t want to watch *any* version of the story. So, when it got to the part in the book where she finally went down the rabbit hole, I kinda thought to myself “ugh, why did I want to read this again?”
      But yeah. Really loved the Wonderland parts, especially those without Jeb, lol. I also enjoyed Morpheus for the same reason you did. It’s interesting how there was this flirtation and hit of *something* between Alyssa and Morpheus, but I still didn’t really see him as a viable love interest or threat to her relationship with Jeb.

  4. Realm of Fiction

    Lovely review, Steph! I’m glad you enjoyed this overall, despite your annoyance at Jeb. I quite liked him, I have to admit. 😉 And yes, I agree this felt more like an extension of the original Wonderland than a complete retelling. The world-building was fantastic here for me. 🙂

  5. aprilmom00

    Team Morpheus and totally agree with you about Jeb. He addition to the story seem to slow it down, and when he was there –all the control. Its Alyssa journey and he came along for the ride. I didn’t like the cheating either . Great Review . Team Morphy

  6. cynicalsapphire

    Ha, that’s pretty much the only level of novel vetting I use most of the time. Even when I hear bad things, I’m like “but the cover! *points* your argument is invalid, because COVER.”
    YES, thank you for hating Jeb. I got into an argument with someone about book club about how awful Jeb is. He’s manipulative and a cheater and an ass and sounds like a waste of space. Just no.
    Though I know this book deserves the three stars I gave it, all I can remember looking back is what a douchecanoe Jeb is.

  7. alexalovesbooks

    This sounds like an AMAZING read! I do love retellings when they’re done in a creative, thoughtful manner, and Splintered certainly sounds like a good one.

  8. Christiana

    I hated how she chose Jeb for the rest of her mortal life, although I get Howard was trying to please the team Morpheus fans by making her have this eternal life with Morpheus. As much I love Morpheus and Alyssa together so much, I hated that Howard made her end up with both of them. It was kinda weird how Jeb was so loving on his death bed, knowing she’d be with Morpheus after she passed on eventually. Like… what? Not to mention, Alyssa already had kids with Jeb, and is having MORE kids with Morpheus. Wait, what?

  9. Christiana

    I read Untamed which goes into the epilouge after Ensnared, and I actually accidentally skipped Ensnared, thinking it came after Untamed (whoops!) and boy was I mad when I read she chose Jeb. I mean yeah, she really thinks he’s the one and stuff, but SHE AND MORPHEUS HAD SO MUCH MORE PASSION AND THEY JUST CONNECTED! (Also, hellooo? Morpheus encouraged her wild side, but Jeb would get afraid of it a lot, and Morpheus had wings like her, and they both had eye pathces.) JUST WHY, OH WHY HOWARD, DID YOU MAKE HER CHOOSE JEB?!

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