Saturday, April 20, 2013

Review: Splintered - A. G. Howard

Splintered by A. G. Howard
Series: Splintered #1
Genre: YA, classic retelling, romance
Published on January 1, 2013
Published by Amulet Books
Pages: 371
Read From: 4.18.13 - 4.19.13

Alyssa Gardner hears the thoughts of plants and animals. She hides her delusions for now, but she knows her fate: she will end up like her mother, in an institution. Madness has run in her family ever since her great-great-grandmother Alice Liddell told Lewis Carroll her strange dreams, inspiring his classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. 
But perhaps she's not mad. And perhaps Carroll's stories aren't as whimsical as they first seem. 
To break the curse of insanity, Alyssa must go down the rabbit hole and right the wrongs of Wonderland, a place full of strange beings with dark agendas. Alyssa brings her real-world crush - the protective Jeb - with her, but once her journey begins, she's torn between his solidity and the enchanting, dangerous magic of Morpheus, her guide to Wonderland. 
But no one in Wonderland is who they seem to be - not even Alyssa herself. . . .


Cover Blurb: Yes or No. No; it's leering at me, and the lipstick is way too bright and thus that's all the Reader can focus on (making this a "lippy read"). I like the bugs and flowers and vines, though.

Characters: I am actually not going to start with the protagonist, but with "the boys." I didn't like Jeb the moment he stepped into the story. I don't do the Goth/skater punk types, but sometimes I can ignore that if their personality is awesome (like Wesley in The Archived). But Jeb is a controlling jerk. His protectiveness of Alyssa didn't strike me as gallant or endearing; he treated her like he was five years old and she was a favorite toy he was obsessed with. He never listened to anyone; he would just run over them and be like, "No, we're doing this and you can't argue." He was constantly talking over Alyssa, or answering for her, and jerking her around by her arms or shoulders. Yeah, sorry - not much to like. And then there's Morpheus, who I liked even less. This guy oozed manipulative creep, with his long hair and leather clothes and ridiculous hats - and describing his breath as smelling like smoke and licorice just added to it. The Author couldn't have chosen worse smells to have associated with him. Oh yes, and we can also label him a stalker. Morpheus has been hanging around Alyssa since she was a little girl, manipulating her even then, and terrorizing her previous ancestors (including her mom). Morpheus doesn't know the meaning of the words "personal space" and never once does he come across as trustworthy. I would be carrying more than bear mace around this guy. And finally we come to Alyssa, the story's protagonist. Our very first introduction to Alyssa is her relating how she enjoys murdering bugs and using their corpses in her art. That's sick! Alyssa is emotionally strung out in more ways than I thought humanly possible. I'm not blaming her, because it would be difficult to not be emotional after all that's happened to her, but as a protagonist, it gets old very quickly. Because it then gives her an excuse to be scatter-brained, flipflop between which guy she likes more, act totally insane, and just be overall indecisive. It's exhausting; I was emotionally wrung out by the time I finished Splintered.

The Romance: And here is where the story completely failed. On the whole, Splintered had a relatively interesting plot (more on that later), but rather than focusing on that, the love triangle takes center stage, and it really is one of the worst love triangles to date. As I've said, Jeb is a controlling jerk, so there's nothing to like there. And Morpheus is a manipulative creep. The Reader knows as soon as you meet him that he's up to no good at all. I would say he's a good villain, but he's so obvious! And it comes as a real shocker to Alyssa that he's been playing her the whole time. You would have to be a complete blockhead to trust that guy! And yet, while Alyssa admits that Morpheus makes her uncomfortable, she can't deny that she feels something for him - simply because she has vague childhood memories of him (never mind Morpheus has been stalking her her whole life, and tormenting her mom; those are minor details, and completely obliterated in the full glory of his "hotness"). Give me a break. Just 'cause he smells "nice" (personally, I think licorice and smoke is one of the worst combinations ever), bares his "milky white" chest, has well-toned legs, and is somehow alluring in his sleazy bearing - that doesn't make all that he's done suddenly all right. And because Jeb and Morpheus are both controlling jerks, they spend all of their time posturing at each other like jealous peacocks. Love triangles only get worse when the two guys start fighting.

Plot: Alyssa is descended from the famous Alice Liddell, who was friends with Lewis Carroll and inspired Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. But what people don't know is that Alice's adventures were real - to an extent. In reality, Wonderland is a much darker and sinister place than Lewis Carroll painted. But when Alice went down to Wonderland, she messed some things up, and now the female descendants of Alice Liddell are cursed. Alyssa's mom has been committed to an insane asylum because of this curse, and now Alyssa is hearing flowers and bugs talk, and she knows that it's only a matter of time before she ends up in an asylum herself. In order to save her mom - and herself, - Alyssa decides to go down the rabbit hole and right the wrongs her great-great-grandmother caused, thereby lifting the curse. But her guide, Morpheus, has his own agenda (which is so obvious from the start!), and there's things he's not telling Alyssa. And to make things much more complicated, Alyssa's emotions are in a whirlwind, as she finds herself trapped between her life-long crush on her best friend Jeb, and the mysterious childhood playmate who taught her about Wonderland in her dreams: Morpheus. The first 100 pages are boring beyond all imagining, as Alyssa's emotional situation is established; I almost stopped reading right there. But by Chapter 6, Alyssa heads to Wonderland and it gets a little bit better: things start to happen. The first plot - lifting the curse, traveling through Wonderland, and discovering that Morpheus hasn't been telling the truth after all (no surprise there) - was interesting. Unfortunately, it took a backseat to the romance, and it melts into a sort of hazy and convoluted background. Nightmarish renditions of the traditional Wonderland characters flit in and out of the story, staying long enough to pique one's interest, and then disappear with no promise of further participation in the plot. Morpheus lies so many times about what he really wants with Alyssa that it eventually becomes difficult to determine what his goal really is. Right when you think all of his deceits have been revealed, another springs up, tangling the plot even further, until I just gave up trying to figure out Morpheus' true intentions. I also have to beg the question of: what was the point of Alyssa getting high on the Tumtum Berries? I realize it ended up being one of the "tests," but it seems like it was more for the purpose of making Alyssa temporarily behave ridiculously.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: Present-tense, and I hated it. It didn't lead to choppy writing, but I still hated it. The Author was also way too much into describing how "hot" and "sexy" her bad boys are. We get a full X-ray of both Jeb and Morpheus - their abs and biceps and hips and lips, and yes their smells. For the record, I don't enjoy reading about protagonists mentally stripping people with their eyes. Nothing can make me hate a character faster than a full-scale physical description - especially if the words "yummy" and "fresh" are used. What are they - a head of organic cabbage? A celery stick? The Author also seemed to have a real fascination with Jeb's garnet labret (chin piercing), because she takes every opportunity she can to mention it. Oh yes - and we have lots of makeout sessions. And they're detailed. Once more, I am totally put off of kissing - gross, gross, gross! Her rendition of Wonderland is properly dark and creepy, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. The original Wonderland is creepy enough; this was like a nightmare, the colors too bright, the creatures grotesque. Tim Burton's rendition of Wonderland wasn't even this bad. I could see some of the enchantment in his Wonderland; there was nothing enchanting about A. G. Howard's Wonderland.

Content: Lots of detailed kissing, Morpheus makes suggestive comments, and the story has an overall undertone of sensuality as Alyssa, Jeb, and Morpheus' emotions heat up.

Conclusion: This book ends about three different times, and all in the space of two chapters. You think someone is dead and defeated, but no! They're still alive! There's a sudden influx of characters literally crammed into one tiny room, tons of revelations and twists, and it quite frankly gave me a bit of headache. But I will admit that once we get to the final finale, the Author wraps it up pretty well, while setting up Book Two nicely. Not that it matters to me; I'm not going to read Book Two. When I first picked up Splintered, I knew it probably wouldn't be to my liking. It just gave off that sort of vibe. But I was willing to give it a chance; maybe it would be yet another popular book that would surprise me. Not surprisingly, it didn't. It's the Alice in Wonderland fan's Twilight.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read all the way, seventeen-and-up, Twilight fans and fans of teen romances in general. Alice in Wonderland fans might enjoy reading about this darker, Tim Burton-ish Wonderland.

Others in This Series:

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