Alyssa Gardner has been down the rabbit hole and faced the bandersnatch. She saved the life of Jeb, the guy she loves, and escaped the machinations of the disturbingly seductive Morpheus and the vindictive Queen Red. Now all she has to do is graduate high school and make it through prom so she can attend the prestigious art school in London she's always dreamed of.
That would be easier without her mother, freshly released from an asylum, acting overly protective and suspicious. And it would be much simpler if the mysterious Morpheus didn’t show up for school one day to tempt her with another dangerous quest in the dark, challenging Wonderland—where she (partly) belongs.
As prom and graduation creep closer, Alyssa juggles Morpheus’s unsettling presence in her real world with trying to tell Jeb the truth about a past he’s forgotten. Glimpses of Wonderland start to bleed through her art and into her world in very disturbing ways, and Morpheus warns that Queen Red won’t be far behind.
If Alyssa stays in the human realm, she could endanger Jeb, her parents, and everyone she loves. But if she steps through the rabbit hole again, she'll face a deadly battle that could cost more than just her head.Hardcover, 400 pagesPublished January 7th 2014 by Harry N. Abrams
Four and half stars: A brilliant and imaginative retelling with a darker side!
Alyssa is eager to finally graduate, but she is apprehensive about her future. She and Jeb still need to convince her parents that she is going to move to London and live with Jeb for a year while he pursues his art career. At least her mother is home finally, happy and safe, and she seems to have left all of the madness of Wonderland behind. The biggest problem is that Jeb doesn't remember anything about his foray into Wonderland last year, and Ali is afraid that once he knows the truth about her netherling heritage, he will leave her. Things come to a head when Wonderland starts to seep into the human realm. Morpheus urges Ali to help restore Wonderland, but she has no desire to take another tumble through the rabbit hole, but the longer she waits, the worse things get, until she can no longer hide. Wonderland is coming for her one way or another! Can Ali restore Wonderland and save her romance with Jeb?
What I Liked:
- I was more than eager to plunge back into the dark, chaotic, exciting and imaginative world of Wonderland. Splintered was one of my favorite books for 2013. I loved the incredibly detailed world building, and I enjoyed the exciting new twists and spins in this Alice and Wonderland retelling. Unhinged doesn't disappoint as it is brimming with netherling creatures, long buried secrets and a difficult romance. This book doesn't falter under the middle book syndrome as it manages to move the plot forward by presenting new conflicts, exposing secrets from the past and substantial character growth. I was once again swept away by the magic of Wonderland. Truly, the creativity in these books is superior! If you are a fan of Alice in Wonderland you will love this series, or even if you are not, you should give these books a read. I am most impressed with the stunning world building and attention to detail.
- I love that these books take Lewis Carroll's visions and refashion them into something darker and a bit more sinister. Ms. Howard as an amazing imagination and I enjoy seeing how she reshapes and revises the original into a modern retelling. The creatures of her Wonderland aren't quite as cute, but they are so intriguing. I am absolutely astounded at her descriptions, and I love that she doesn't skip over the details. I am such a fan of solid world building, and I think the world building and detail in this series is top notch! I was also thrilled that Chessie, the Chesire Cat, has a much bigger role.
- Another thing that impresses me about these books, is that there is plenty of descriptive fashion. I like that way the author takes the time to describe all the unique and interesting fashions. Ali definitely isn't a jeans and t shirt type girl. I love the extensive discussions on her eclectic wardrobe. Her prom dress especially was a fascinating artistic creation. I wish that Ms. Howard could somehow bring her visions to life. It would be fantastic if these books had pictures. Better yet, I think they would be terrific as movies.
- The first book focused on Wonderland and on Ali retracing the original Alice's footsteps, while this time, the story stays in the human realm and it centers more on character growth, the romance and long hidden secrets. Wonderland does make plenty of appearances in the human realm, so don't worry about missing out on the magic. Ali is struggling with trying to come to terms with her netherling heritage. She thought when she and Jeb escaped the rabbit hole last year that things would return back to normal. Morpheus has other ideas. Ali worries about telling Jeb the truth, and her inability to come clean is causing some issues in their relationship. Furthermore, even though she has both feet planted in the human realm, deep inside there is a part of her that wants to succumb to Wonderland. This book is mostly about Ali trying to determine her path and her identity. Will she choose Jeb and the safety of a normal life in the human realm or will she plunge through the rabbit hole and choose magic, mayhem and wonder with Morpheus? I enjoyed watching her work through her choices, and I like that the author makes a solid case for both options. Ali has a difficult decision ahead.
- The romance.....part of me detests that it succumbs to the all to familiar second book stumbling blocks. At the end of book one, it appeared that Ali and Jeb were settling in for their happily ever after. A year later, Jeb remembers nothing of his visit to Wonderland, and Ali hasn't been honest with him regarding her unique heritage. Jealousy and insecurity constantly nag at Ali. What once seemed like a romance that was destined for happiness now is in question. Enter in Morpheus, the moth boy who staked his claim on Ali long ago. This time around, I finally got a better peek at him and found that I liked him even more. While he appears to be selfish and acting on his best interests only, in reality, he has a soft side and a heart. Even though he pretends his motives are all about protecting his car, he really does have the best interests of Ali and Wonderland in mind. He helps bails Ali out time and time again and helps her with Jed. The love triangle firmly solidifies in this book, and while I normally detest love triangles, I appreciate the the author presents firm evidence why Ali could go either way. At first, I was firmly in camp Jed, but since he plays a diminished role in this one, I am wavering.......especially because Morpheus shows his true colors and presents a strong case for why Ali should choose him.
And The Not So Much:
- The pace of this one was a bit slow, especially in comparison to the first book. As I mentioned, this book is all about Ali struggling with her heart and her identity. There isn't quite as much action, and I missed the magic and thrill of Wonderland since this book remains in the human realm. I grew bored of Ali dealing with mundane school stuff. It does eventually pick up at the midway point, but it does take a bit before it really sucked me in. There is the constant revisiting of Ali's issues, before Wonderland slips in and takes over.
- The love triangle rears its head and the romance that I loved in the first block goes through some severe growing pains. Although, I thought the author made a good case for her love triangle, and believe it or not, I actually am not hating it as much as I normally do, I still am disappointed that this second book takes the romance into the familiar, well worn territory where it falters and opens to the possibility of a new suitor. There are several scenes with male posturing and each tries to stake his claim in front of the other. Eye roll.....I hate these antics. However after all that, I am torn for now, and I am not sure which way I want it to go, especially in light of the secret revelation by Queen Ivory.
- For the first half of the book, Ali was at odds with her mother. I thought after everything they had been through that Ali would be so happy to have her mother returned that they wouldn't be nitpicking at each other. I didn't like the bickering and that they were hiding things from each other. Thankfully by the end, they were back on better terms. Even though I didn't like the mother daughter conflicts, I appreciated that their relationship had to endure its own growing pains, which is realistic.
- The second half of the book is thrilling and exciting as danger hits close to home. Unfortunately, just when things are climaxing and you are begging for a strong resolution, a brutal cliffhanger slaps you in the face. Unlike the first book that resolves neatly, this one leaves you completely unhinged and hanging...... It will be a long wait until the final book.
- I struggled with book amnesia and there were many things that I had forgotten in the year since I read the first book, I would have liked a bit more recap. In all honesty, this is a series that would be best read in short span of time as there are lots of details to keep straight.
Unhinged is an exciting and brilliant sequel to the outstanding Splintered. Once again, this book is brimming with the bizarre and outlandish creatures of Wonderland, even though there are no trips through the rabbit hole. Fear not, Wonderland makes plenty of appearances in human realm. This is a book focused on character growth, plot development and exciting new directions. The cliffhanger is brutal, and it left me more than eager for the next book. For those of you looking for a recharge in your reading, do not hesitate get this highly imaginative and thrilling series immediately!
"You do. Because of who you are. What you are. One half brimming with dark curiosities and fierce appetite for all things mad. But the other half whimsy and light--filled with courage and loyalty." He bites his lower lip, a gesture so minute I might've imagined it. "Nothing can break the chains you have on my heart. For you are Wonderland."
"One does what one has to do, to protect what they love."
"But now, more than ever, I realize how important every memory is, bad or good, because they shape who we become."
"Is that not the true meaning of sacrifice? Giving more than you ever thought you and, to save the one you love?"
"Urgency darkens his eyes. He drags me roughly to him, kisses my eye patches, then glides his lips to mine, his thumbs against my temples, caressing sweetly. He tastes of moonbeam cookies---almonds, sugar and enchantments."
I purchased a copy of this book. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.