4 out of 5 stars
The first chapter establishes Alyssa as a rather quirky character – she is alternative in her dress sense, she has dreadlocks, she skateboards, and most of all: she creates mosaics out of dead bugs. It is here we discover that she does this to shut them up – because she can hear what plants and bugs say. Alyssa appears to be intelligent, caring and firmly grounded, despite her family history of females going insane. This is apparently because Alyssa is a distant relative of Alice Liddell, the real Alice in Wonderland, who had a curse placed on her and her family after leaving Wonderland in a mess. This is a stark contrast to the final moments of Lewis Carroll’s book. Alice ended up in an asylum, where Alyssa’s mother now is, and reading Alice’s psychiatric report is quite haunting.
A.G. Howard’s writing style flows well, with pretty visuals and vivid descriptions. She also writes fast-paced action scenes very well. She appears to have a talent for the strange – where Carroll created odd characters, Howard makes them odder. I have quite honestly come to expect a certain type of writing style from YA authors, but A. G. Howard dashes all those expectations. A clever and unexpected plot twist towards the end especially impressed me.
One thing I disliked about the book, which is far too prevalent in current YA books, was the love triangle. I suppose it wasn’t quite as ridiculous as many other YA books, but it would be so refreshing to read one without any sort of romance! The two guys fighting over Alyssa are quite typical – Jeb, the dark, handsome, brooding arty type; and Morpheus, the mysterious guy from Alyssa’s past. Another issue I want to raise is that if Alyssa’s family are trying to escape the Alice curse, why do all the females have Alice names? I suppose it is possible that it is part of the curse, but it is never discussed.
Overall, I would highly recommend this book. It presents Lewis Carroll’s happier version of Wonderland as the deluded fantasy, and the one that Alyssa explores as the real version; I can really imagine young Alice blocking out the horrific truth with milder images. It plays very cleverly on Carroll’s creation, without being a completely straight retelling. It has also reminded me that I haven’t read Alice in Wonderland for about 10 years, and really should re-read it…