DNF at 60%. I don’t often abandon books, and I refrain from writing reviews, but I had many thoughts about this one, so I made an exception. I mean no offense. My opinions are my own.
Splintered follows the story of Alyssa Gardner, who is a descendant of Alice Liddell- the woman who was the inspiration behind Lewis Carroll’s famous Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa was little older than a toddler when her mother was sent to an asylum and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Alyssa’s mother claims that she can hear the whispers of bugs and flowers- that sounds crazy and all, except that Alyssa is experiencing the same thing. Frightened that she will end up in a similar situation as her mother, Alyssa has kept this ability a secret until one tragic day at her mother’s hospital brings to the surface a more sinister secret: Alice Liddell’s female descendants are cursed. Wonderland is real- and Alice did things that need to be reversed for the curse to lift.
There are several things wrong with this book, and I usually despise lists in reviews, but desperate times call for desperate measures:
- Our main character is a white girl with dreadlocks. I’m sure Howard was trying to make Alyssa out to be a special, unique little flower but here’s an idea: how about you do that without resorting to cultural appropriation? Ever thought a character can be unique if her personality is unique? What a wild idea. Am I supposed to root for this girl?
- Mental health is dramatized and used as a plot point. Alyssa’s mother is very literally put in a straitjacket and taken to solitary confinement- was this book supposed to be written in the mid-1900s because that sure as hell doesn’t happen anymore. Way to add more inaccuracies to an already stigmatized community. I mean, really, way to go.
- The protagonist is so unlikable. Apart from her general proclivity to appropriate cultures, she’s also completely spineless. She tries to put up a good fight but people manipulate and push her around as if she was made of play dough. She is angsty, irrational and confused- being in her head made me want to throw punches.
- Love interest #1: Jeb – Alyssa’s best friend – seems like a lovely guy, until he sheds off the skin and reveals the douchebag underneath. He has a girlfriend, but of course, why in the fuck does commitment matter when you can have a whiny little girl who has the personality of a cardboard box? He is controlling and manipulative; he seems to think Alyssa’s life belongs to him, and seems to care more about her ‘honor’ and his ‘pride’ than her well-being.
- Potential love interest #2: Morpheus (what the hell is up with that name, though?) – he is perhaps even worse than Jeb, from the little I’ve seen. At least Jeb was upfront about his control-freak tendencies: Morpheus straight up gets in Alyssa’s head and twirls things around, and she can’t help but feel ‘pangs’ for him. What in the hell? Malicious, and just plain creepy. If I met someone like him in real life, you know what I’d do? Call the cops.
- The romance had its seeds planted before the book began. The feelings existed, so I didn’t get to see them bud and bloom- the result was a flat romance that I was completely disinterested in.
- The plot is virtually non-existent. The story can be covered in its entirety with one book: go to Wonderland, fix things and lift the curse. Live happily ever after. But nah, let’s add unnecessary romantic drama, unnecessary angst, unnecessary detours and meetings with creatures that do not seem to advance the story at all. The world-building was visual, but felt rather abstract. I could not pinpoint a single concrete thing happening in this book.
Alright, look. I haven’t read the original Carroll story, which is perhaps why I was so confused and disoriented throughout, but I shouldn’t have to be familiar with an original story to read and enjoy a retelling. I was not familiar with 1001 Nights when I read the Wrath and the Dawn, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It’s called a retelling, and not a sequel, for a reason. They do not exist to build on an existing work, but to retell an existing work with new aspects, alterations and twists.
Honestly, I am so disappointed. I had heard such brilliant things about this series, and it did start off strong until things took such a steep turn that I started nitpicking everything that was off in the first few chapters as well. What a shame.