by A. G. Howard
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
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.
(synopsis from Goodreads)
This is not a book that I expected to DNF. But here we are. I realized it was just not going to work between me and Splintered when I'd spent days avoiding my e-reading app just so I wouldn't have to read any more of the book. The way things were going, my rating probably would have been one ladybug... two, tops. I know that this is book has generally been well received. But I just didn't get it.
There are a few good things about Splintered. First, it has an amazing cover that accurately portrays the mood of the story. And the girl actually looks like the main character! Second, the writing itself isn't uniformly terrible. It didn't trip me up with clumsy phrases and grammatical errors. And I really liked the opening paragraph:
I've been collecting bugs since I was ten; it's the only way I can stop their whispers. Sticking a pin through the gut of an insect shuts it up pretty quick.
That hooked me right away and made me want to keep reading. Unfortunately, it kind of went downhill from there. We're introduced to Alyssa's weepy father, her insane mother (and her unrealistic asylum), her bitchy nemesis, and her next-door neighbour, Jeb. I had problems with Jeb. I think readers are supposed to find him hot. He's a reformed bad-boy turned artist. Unfortunately, he's also extremely controlling, to the point that he seems to think he's Alyssa's second father... and she still manages to crush on him. I'm sorry, but protective friend is one thing; controlling father figure is another. And it's not hot.
Then there was the editing. Homophone slip-ups are bordering on excusable ("Yeah, he's been on a real role lately.") but outright misspellings ("theif") are definitely not. Seriously? It was published in 2013 and it's an e-book. How hard is it to run it through a spellchecker? (Apparently, pretty hard.)
The beginning of the end for me was when Alyssa, desperate to get to London, steals a wad of cash from her enemy's purse... with barely a hint of regret or guilt. The message seemed to be that it's okay because Taelor is a bitch. Somehow, I don't think that excuse would hold up in court.
Things had just started to pick up when I stopped at 25%, but the damage was already done. I just don't care what happens. I don't care about the mysterious winged boy (who's probably some other potential love interest, introduced so that there can be a love triangle and Alyssa can make some more bad and/or morally questionable decisions). I don't really care if Alyssa breaks the curse and saves her mother from having her brain fried with ECT. When a book makes you stop caring... it's time to quit.
So, in the final analysis, the reasons why I didn't finish Splintered are as follows:
- unlikeable main character