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.

There are two kinds of YA Paranormal series:
·         the romantic kind, and
·         the other kind.

It's very common that the romance takes over and pushes the actual plot into the background. Or, conversely, the plot has been known to dominate, with the romance as a mere afterthought.

The Splintered series does the plot so well. It does the worldbuilding spectacularly. It's written well, and it's well-paced, and overall, it's a whole lot of well.

But it's also invariably very heavy on the romance. And the romance is a love triangle. (I mean, what other kind is there? All the best and most infuriating things come in threes. Apparently.)

Alyssa, is a high school junior, an unfortunate descendant of Alice Liddell, and - to her knowledge - a normal human being. Sure, her mom is in an asylum and her hobbies involve making murals out of dead insects. And her dad is pining. And Allie herself has a crush on a childhood friend who seems moderately oblivious. But this is all part of a normal teenage experience.

Then Alyssa is a netherling, a not-so-normal magical being, destined to set Wonderland right and break her family's curse which tends to drive them to insanity. Her head is in danger of parting from her body, and her meal escapes her plate at least once. This might not be part of a normal teenage experience.

But as others go to great lengths to point out - Alyssa is the best of both worlds. And her struggle between her human side with all its human problems and her netherling side with all its insanity is hands-down the driving force behind this series. Because Allie allows herself to be both rational and mad, and both vulnerable and fierce.

So, it follows that there are two ways to read the Splintered series:
·         accept that the romance the Other Important Stuff will battle it out for dominance
·         root for one over the other and get enraged every time The Other wins.

I recommend the former. As does your doctor.

Much to my own doctor's probable dismay, I spent a great deal of Splintered doing the former. (I mean, I'm in my early 20s and my blood pressure is great normally, but god only knows what this love triangle did to it. Just saying. Books have the power to basically destroy our lives.) I wanted the love triangle (a) resolved, (b) less prominent, and (c) rational.

But love triangles in paranormal trilogies are rarely resolved, rarely anything short of bombastic, and never at all rational.

On the one hand, there's Jeb - that childhood friend whose feelings emerge when someone else comes along. Before that, he was a loyal friend, boyfriend to someone else, and that guy with no concept of gender equality. (Though he'd have you think otherwise. Because he likes to think for you.) On the other hand, there's Morpheus - an even childhood-er friend (not that Alyssa knows it) whose feelings have always been there, but who takes ulterior motives and half-truths and elevates them into an honest-to-Caterpillar art form. Jeb is a skater boy. Morpheus is... a moth. 

It's complicated. For Alyssa as well as the rest of us.

A.G. Howard makes up for it in all sorts of impressive ways, though!
- With superb, sensory-overload descriptions (half the time, you are actually there, which is mostly the point of fiction).
- With amazing plot twists.
- With truly devious anti-heroes and a whole cast of entertaining secondary characters.
- And with a world every bit as mad, but far more grotesque, than Lewis Carroll imagined it. This is not the Wonderland for children (though, admittedly, the protagonist did sort of visit it as a child). This is the Wonderland where beheading is only one of the many demises which could possibly befall you - and possibly the quickest way to go.

(And this is high praise, my friends. I love Lewis Carroll. I love Alice In Wonderland. I love and own TWO different animated versions of it. And Alice is my favorite Tom Waits song. So, y'know. I'm a mild fan.)

"Arithmetick, arithmetock
Turn the hands back on the clock"

So, naturally, the sequel is next.

(Also, team Morpheus. Fight me.)

In the spirit of full disclosure - I may have already devoured a sequel. Which says all kinds of good things about the series as a whole, I guess. I still think this dark Wonderland is the height of epic madness. I still think the love triangle is wholly unnecessary. And despite it all, I'm still team Morpheus. You can take the Me out of an anti-hero, but you can't take an anti-hero out of the Me.

Talk to me, lovelies! What was the last good retelling you've read? Do you enjoy retellings in general? A.G. Howard's Phantom of the Opera one, RoseBlood, is one of my most anticipated books of 2017. *sighs dreamily* I did already champion a PoTO retelling on this very blog before, so y'know. I'm a teeny, tiny bit excited.