When I read A.G. Howard‘s first novel, Splintered, I was taken with her rendition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice story. It felt original because it didn’t set out to “retell” a classic; rather, it continued it with a spunky new heroine, Alyssa, who took the story in a brand new direction. It’s a compelling blend of vivid imagery, action, and innovation; the characters are strong and the romance doesn’t get out of hand. (See my review of Splintered here.) I eagerly anticipated its sequel and was not let down.
While much of Splintered takes place down the rabbit hole, Unhinged keeps to the human world (mostly), though Wonderland remains a constant presence. My full review will follow, but I’d first just like to say that these books are well written and a pleasure to read. Howard wraps you up in her language and knows how to tell a story, so it’s easy to get lost in them; they’re a fun ride. Okay, now onto the review!
Review first published in “Shelf Awareness for Readers,” Friday, Jan. 31 2014.
“After the trip down the rabbit hole in Splintered, Alyssa Gardner chose life in the human realm with her boyfriend, Jeb, over the magical madness of Wonderland–despite having been crowned its Red Queen. It is increasingly difficult for her to ignore her netherling (magical) side, however, as her dreams and artwork have become riddled with scenes of a ravaged, war-torn Wonderland. Everything–bugs, flowers, Morpheus (her smoldering netherling mentor and tempter)–begs for her return. Then, the unthinkable happens: Wonderland finds its way into the human realm, and suddenly everyone she loves is in danger.
Unhinged is characterized by complexity rather than action, as Alyssa learns more of her family’s history and her own responsibilities toward Wonderland. Every revelation brings with it more questions, causing her to grapple with her identity and to realize that she is indelibly human and netherling. Layered between these personal struggles are matters of the heart, as Jeb and Morpheus vie for Alyssa’s affection and loyalty. A.G. Howard’s generous use of sensory language creates a lush, vibrant landscape on which her story plays out. Howard’s references to Carroll’s Alice stories keep the originals at the heart of her own tale, yet never give the impression of being derivative. A dark beauty fills the novel’s pages, which will mesmerize teens with a taste for magic, romance or suspense. Unhinged lays the groundwork for a third book where anything could happen–it is Wonderland, after all.”