Blurb (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.
My rating: 7 out of 10 stars
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Abrams and Netgalley.)
Alyssa is hiding a secret. For the past six years, ever since she got her first period she has been able to hear plants and bugs talking, sometimes to her and sometimes to each other. As mad as this sounds, what scares Alyssa most is that her mother has been in an asylum for years for exactly the same reason. That’s why she doesn’t let anyone know what she can hear for fear of being locked up too.
Alyssa has a legacy to uphold though, her ancestor was the real-life ‘Alice’ from the Alice in Wonderland story by Lewis Carroll, and now it seems that it is up to her to break the curse on her family, caused by the original Alice’s actions.
Desperate to save her mother more pain and unnecessary treatments, Alyssa searches desperately for a way back to Wonderland to break the curse, and eventually finds herself down the rabbit hole with her secret crush Jeb.
Alyssa doesn’t understand how things work in Wonderland though, and the man who guided her there – Morpheus may not be as trustworthy as he originally seemed.
Can Alyssa possibly break the curse? Can she right Alice’s wrongs and set Wonderland to rights? Or will she find herself tangled up in an even bigger mess?
This was a total fairy-tale, filled with evil queens and helpless flowers! Alyssa was a fantastic ‘Alice’, and Wonderland was just so utterly strange and intoxicating.
Wonderland was a work of art in its own right, with no attention to detail spared. I don’t remember ‘Alice in Wonderland’ all that well, but each event in this book seemed to echo Alice’s original adventures, just with the twist that Alyssa was trying to put Alice’s wrongs to rights. The world building was elaborate and imaginative, and the storyline was new. There were also plenty of extra little touches to take this story from a copy, to a complex story in its own right.
I really liked Alyssa, and her fashion sense made me an instant fan! Love the gothic fairy look! (Imagine the girl on the cover with a bit more black eye makeup and some blue dreds among the golden locks and that’s the Alyssa in the story). She obviously wanted to help her mom, but she wasn’t a martyr either, and she did make mistakes. She was sort-of unprepared for what Wonderland would throw at her, and there was an on-going theme throughout the book that in Wonderland nobody can be trusted, and nothing is what it seems.
Jeb was a welcome addition to the story, with his continuous jokes and name-calling at Morpheus’ expense, and a hidden alpha-male protectiveness of Alyssa. The little touch of romance was good too, although I wasn’t overly impressed by the Alyssa-Jeb-Morpheus love triangle.
On the negative side, I did get quite confused towards the end. I found all the different things that were going on, and all the different ideas and prophecy stuff hard to follow, and I’m still not sure I really get it now. The storyline was quite complex, especially towards the end, and trying to work out exactly who said what, when, where, and why and what effect that had upon Alyssa’s present day situation was a bit difficult to follow, I think I’d need a pen and paper to try and work it out.
Overall though, this was an interesting spin on the classic ‘Alice in Wonderland’ story, with depth and character of its own, and if you like fairy tales, you’ll like this.
7 out of 10.