Thursday, March 7, 2013

♠ Splintered: ♥ Review ♦ Discussion ♣

SplinteredTitle: Splintered
Author: AG Howard
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Source: Brandy ♣ eGalley from NetGalley & Bought; Malissa ♠ Bought
Format: eBook & Hardcover via Amazon
Rating: Brandy ♣ 5 stars ♥ Malissa ♠ 5 stars

~ The Scoop from Goodreads ~

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.


 Thoughts before even starting. I know we both liked the cover of this one before even knowing if it was supposed to be any good. I can't help it, it just looks ... wild! But I opened my copy last night, and wow! It's printed in this purplish ink. So cool. And sure, that doesn't add to the actual story, but it adds atmosphere and a sense of mystery somehow. I love it! (as an aside, this us one of those moments when print trumps my kindle) 
I do love the cover. Beautiful, eye catching, wild is such a good description. I'm quite jealous of u rt now. Maybe I'll order it now. 

I just finished my lunch break and am on page 68.

My thoughts thus far:

I oddly like the connection between Alyssa getting her first period and whatever is going on starting. I don't know why. Not the period itself (gross) but the idea that she's somehow grown up based on both those things. Again, not sure why.

Oh how I hate intentionally, hurtful oblivious parents! I wasn't sure at first how much I was going to like her dad. I like him better now. He's obviously love, dedicated to mom, etc. But a bit slow, is he not?

This book doesn't pull any punches about jumping into the action, does it? Wow. I like that.

Can she write chemistry or what? The connection between Alyssa and Jeb is palpable. I always feel alittle weird thinking that in YA books for some reason. Do you get that at all?

I'm trying to decide if the Alice references are awesome or over the top.  Allison in a blue dress and apron. Twin hulking gardeners. Underland. Butterfly Threads (where Alyssa works), etc. I think I'm liking it, but I really hope the story lives up to the dramatic setup.

I think I'll end up ordering a copy of it.But so far I'm liking Splintered enough I could see wanting to own it.

I like her wannabe snarkiness - like with the nurse, when she didn't say what she wanted to say about having the crutches but instead was nice and answered as a 'good girl' should.

I do like the connection between first period and hearing the voices as well. It gives it a good starting point, a place of expectation, and makes it more believable. Of course, the backstory about her mom helps with that too. I loved how it started out kind of creepy... her killing bugs. I mean, makes total sense. I'd probably kill them too if they were whispering sweet nothings in my ear, but man it came off dark. I loved it.

Her dad does seem pretty oblivious, doesn't he? I'm not all that far into it (I think I finished Ch 3 at the dr's office... I don't know if you got that email or not) but I get that, definitely.

And OH MY GOODNESS, YES! she can write chemistry. I seriously re-read the scene with her and Jeb in Gizmo (which I *love* the 80's movie reference, btw) because it was *that* good. And yes, I do feel a little odd saying/thinking that when it comes to YA novels. I think that's why some adults balk at the idea of reading them - it may make them feel like a creeper to an extent... I mean, the romances in them are not "adult" romances, and the characters are not adult, so it should seem weird falling in love with a character in a YA book, shouldn't it? As an adult? I think I'm reading too much into it. Then there's also the fact that most are written by adults... so what does that say? Hmm... let's forget this entire aside... lol  I am very curious to see where that relationship goes.

I think I like the Alice references. So far at least. I mean, it makes sense to me that they're there, they don't seem out of place at all. Yet. lol

Agreed on the darkness. It reminds me a bit of Holly Black's books. And a bit of Maggie Stiefvater's.

Yes!  Well, yes, on the Maggie. I haven't read any Holly Black (please don't throw things at me)...

Lol. I won't. I promise. Hers are a bit darker and less funny than Maggie's (imo) but are similarly themed. Also Brenna Yovanoff, especially the replacement. Notice how these comparisons are all books/authors we like :)
I'm somewhere in Chapter 5. I am really liking it, I can't lie. But I'm wondering if it would make any difference in my reading if I had ever actually read Alice in Wonderland. I mean, it's on my shelf at home but I've just never read it.
Nearly done with chapter 7. I am really liking it, and I think she did a good job building from the original. Which I have read. I had read Alice before & read it & Lookinglass before seeing the new movie. I think if you've seen the Disney version & the new one, you have all the background you need. Though it might make you *want* to read it ;)

Next email:
I'm ready for Chapter 10 (over a third but not quite half). I didn't get any time to read at all today. Boo. Still liking it. Still liking her retelling of Wonderland. Still liking Alyssa and Jeb. Really disliking another character you may or may not have encountered yet. Someone hinted at early on ... That individual is going to make me angry, I suspect. 

I'm *nearly* done with splinter. Nearly.

I am not *nearly* anywhere *near* done with Splintered. 38% according to my Kindle. People here apparently do not see fit to let you read at lunch. ;)

I'm going to write up my review in an email when I'm done, but wait for updates etc from you so we can still discuss. It's odd me being ahead for once, lol. Usually you're waiting for my slow butt ;)

Malissa finished so much sooner than I did. I text her with "WHAT?" and "WHY?", but mostly we stopped discussion once she finished. I really am a freak when it comes to no spoilers. lol  But she knows that and one response said something along the lines of "... mysterious silence ..."  So, here's some final thoughts.

I was between 4 & 5 stars most of the way through this book just because A. I love retellings/takes on classics and have read a lot, and this isn't *quite* at the brilliance level of say Gregory Maguire's Wicked and B. I wasn't totally sucked into this until the end. I was engaged, but not absorbed. To be fair, I've had a LOT going on to distract me lately, but I still think a Fantastic book (capital intended) like, say, Code Name Verity would suck me in even on a burning plane in a downward spiral. But in the end I'm going with 5, and here's why:

Atmosphere. This book has great atmosphere that's very reminiscent of both Carroll's original vision and Tim Burton's Alice take (both men are credited at the back of the book) with a fun and believable modern, urban fantasy type twist that works.

Originality. There were times I wondered how much Howard borrowed from the new Alice movie (the importance of the vorpol sword, the bandersnatch as a 'pet' of the red court) but upon further research (read googling) I discovered that others have built on these for years. This book stays close enough to the original Alice for the storyline to work while changing it enough to feel fresh and more grown up. And like Burton's movie, it's a sequel more than a retelling, though that definitely happens some too. In a very clever way.

Characters. This book is definitely plot and action driven, no apologies for that, but it does have characters that I waffled between love and hate for which makes a difference for me as a reader. Flat characters can ruin the best story, and if these didn't truly change much from beginning to end, they had enough dimension to be quite interesting.

Chemistry. Wow. Howard can write chemistry. It sizzles off the pages at points. And while nothing 'happens' in the story (we librarians can safely tell parents that this book is pretty darn clean in terms of language and sex) it sure *feels* hot! Teens will LOVE this couple. Heck. *I* love them.

The ending. How many good books have you read where the ending fizzles or just flat out stinks? Lots right? This one actually kinda rocks in my opinion. I was talking out loud, rushing through pages, and possibly tearing up (though I won't admit it again ...). And it was satisfying, not *too* easy, and believable. That's what bumped me from 4 to 5 stars.

I'm not going to say I'd give this book to every reader. Some adult readers will no doubt find it too dramatic and short on depth, but it's a great YA book with lots of actual teen appeal. And I'm glad to put it on my shelf with my copy of the original Alice.

I *hate* how long this took for me to finish. Seriously. It wasn't the book's fault, but man. I really wanted to know how it all ended, yet I didn't want to know because I really didn't want it to end. Before I was even finished I wanted to go back to the beginning and read it all over. I wanted Alyssa to realize her dreams, wishes, but at the same time I was anxious because as dark, terrifying, and confusing as the world was, I didn't want to leave it yet.

I really liked that it wasn't just a retelling, but that it happens later, down the ancestral line. I think that made it more interesting for me. I don't know if it's because I've never read the original (own, never read. Sad... but true story) or if I would feel that way even if. We shall never know.

The writing. Oh, the writing. Descriptions galore. I loved how Wonderland seemed so beautifully dark. I'm not sure I have ever been so captivated by a place in a book. I definitely want more of that.

I also want more of AG Howard's chemistry. It was palpable, visceral. I sincerely went back and read parts just to feel it all over again. The characters were flawed, real. They had attachments for one another that were 100% believable. I'm not sure what will happen in the future, but as of now, I'm totally down for Jeb and Alyssa. The tension, the chemistry, the unconditional love... I can't wait to see what Howard does with it all.

But nothing is ever black and white. I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate that Howard has me questioning my utter dislike of a certain character. We shall see how the story progresses in Unhinged, but I'm hoping my dislike can continue. :)  Speaking of continuing... in order to continue this one must end, right? Of course. And the ending to this one? Superbly done. It was plausible, believable, sad, heartwarming, and made me angry all at the same time.

I would recommend this book to lots of people, whether they are a fan of Carroll's Wonderland or not, and especially if they like dark fantasy.
Have you read it? Want to read it? Share your thoughts, if you would. :)

B & M


  1. MMMMM. Brandy and Malissa are the "Siskel and Ebert" of books.

    1. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but we do have fun with it. :)

    2. Though we're totally willing if someone wants to pay us for what we love to do anyway ;)


Thank you so much for taking your time to share your thoughts! I try to respond to everyone. :)