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Review: Unhinged by A. G. Howard


Unhinged
Author:  A. G. Howard
Series:  Splintered 2
Publisher:  Amulet Paperbacks, January 6, 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback, 416 pages
      Hardcover and eBook, January 7, 2014
List Price:  $8.95 (Trade Paperback and eBook)
ISBN:   9781419713736 (print); 9781613125342 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Reviewer's Own

Review: Unhinged by A. G. Howard
Alyssa Gardner has been down the rabbit hole. She was crowned Queen of the Red Court and faced the bandersnatch. She saved the life of Jeb, the boy she loves, and escaped the machinations of the disturbingly appealing Morpheus. Now all she has to do is graduate high school.

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.

Could she leave Jeb and her parents behind again, for the sake of a man she knows has manipulated her before? Will her mother and Jeb trust her to do what's right? Readers will swoon over the satisfying return to Howard's bold, sensual reimagining of Carroll's classic.



Trinitytwo's Point of View

In Splintered, (review here) book 1 of the Splintered series, author A.G. Howard demonstrates to her readers that Wonderland is real, but its reality is much more garish, vicious and deranged than Lewis Carroll dared to reveal. Book 2, Unhinged, takes place a year after Alyssa Gardner's return. Alyssa is a descendant of the original Alice and her harrowing adventures in Wonderland have left an indelible mark on her and her family. As her senior year comes to a close, she is looking forward to her immediate future; attending prom, studying art at an English college, and being close to her boyfriend Jeb. However, Alyssa's art has begun mimicking her nightmares and she finds herself creating disturbing and violent images of Queen Red rampaging and destroying Wonderland and its occupants. She soon discovers that her netherling companion, Morpheus, has crossed into her world in human form with hopes of trying to persuade her to return to Wonderland and set things right. But Morpheus isn't the only inhabitant from Wonderland that has crossed into the human world. To protect those she loves, Alyssa must finally embrace her heritage and the dark magical madness that gives her power.

I am seriously enthralled with this YA series. Howard's reinvention of Wonderland is absorbing and fascinating. I'm continually impressed that Howard finds the perfect balance of making the weirdly bizarre positively believable. Alyssa is a great hero. The nature of her dual citizenship gives her a Jekyll and Hyde persona and I have to admit celebrating when she goes full Hyde. She longs for a normal human life and is willing to fight for that, but also recognizes her obligations to Wonderland and her internal struggle for balance feels very realistic.

Love triangles can be tricky but I'm enjoying the bickering, misunderstandings and misconceptions between Alyssa, Jeb and Morpheus. They provide a humorous foil to some stressful situations. Having a daughter of my own, I thought the mother/daughter tensions were realistic and are depicted perfectly.

I have to hand it to A.G. Howard, Unhinged is a real page-turner. I read it in just a few days, excitedly devouring each page well into the wee hours of the morning. Unhinged can stand alone as Howard seamlessly intersperses the pertinent details from Splintered into its pages, but I advise starting on this adventure from its inception. I recommend this book to lovers of Lewis Carroll, admirers of strong female protagonists, and readers who crave adrenaline-packed adventures. It would also appeal to people who love the off-beat. The creepiness of the creatures from Wonderland are the stuff of nightmares and readers will revel in their sinister deliciousness. Let Unhinged draw you deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole.




Previously

Splintered
Splintered 1
Amulet Paperbacks, February 18, 2014
Trade Paperback, 400 pages
      Hardcover and eBook, January 1, 2013

Review: Unhinged by A. G. Howard
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.




Upcoming in Paperback

Ensnared
Splintered 3
Amulet Paperbacks, December 15, 2015
Trade Paperback, 416 pages
      Hardcover and eBook, January 6, 2015

Review: Unhinged by A. G. Howard
After surviving a disastrous battle at prom, Alyssa has embraced her madness and gained perspective. She’s determined to rescue her two worlds and the people and netherlings she loves. Even if it means challenging Queen Red to a final battle of wills and wiles . . . and even if the only way to Wonderland, now that the rabbit hole is closed, is through the looking-glass world—a parallel dimension filled with mutated and violent netherling outcasts.

In the final installment of the wildly popular Splintered trilogy, Alyssa and her dad journey into the heart of magic and mayhem in search of her mom and to set right all that’s gone wrong. Together with Jeb and Morpheus, they must salvage Wonderland from the decay and destruction that has ensnared it. But if they succeed and come out alive, can everyone truly have their happily ever after?

Review: Splintered by A. G. Howard


Splintered
Author:  A. G. Howard
Series:  Splintered 1
Publisher:  Amulet Paperbacks, February 18, 2014
Format:  Trade Paperback, 400 pages
    Hardcover and eBook, January 1, 2013
List Price:  $8.95 (print - Trade Paperback)
ISBN:   9781419709708 (print)
Review Copy:  Reviewer's Own

Review: Splintered by A. G. Howard
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.




Trinitytwo’s Point of View

Splintered is a dark and twisted take on Wonderland that centers on Alyssa, the original Alice’s great-great-great grand daughter. Alyssa, as with all women of her bloodline, is cursed with the ability to hear the constant whispering of flowers and bugs and her dreams are clouded with nightmares of Wonderland. Alison, her mother, couldn’t bear the strain of Wonderland’s influences and became so dangerous that she was committed to Soul’s Asylum where she will spend the rest of her days. Alyssa desperately wants to spend her senior year in a London exchange program near her best friend, Jeb Holt. Unfortunately, Alison’s mental illness has made Alyssa’s father overprotective of his only child. Banking on Jeb’s help, Alyssa is crushed when Jeb agrees with her dad that she should spend her senior year at home. After a harrowing incident at the asylum involving her mother, Alyssa’s dad makes the heart-wrenching decision to approve electroshock therapy on Alison. A familiar voice in Alyssa’s head tells her there is only way to stop this, and she nobly goes through the “Looking Glass” to try and save her mother. What she didn’t expect was Jeb being summoned by her last wish just before falling down the rabbit hole. In order to return to her world, Alyssa must undo the mistakes that Alice Liddell made all those years ago, and restore the balance in Wonderland. But Wonderland is a much more terrifying place than Lewis Carroll ever wrote about. The two humans trapped in this world of dark fantasy must gather all their bravery and wits to outsmart the denizens of this place who have plans and schemes of their own.

For whatever reason, I’m more interested in reading alternate histories of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland than in the original. While browsing through a local bookstore, my attention was captured by this book’s beautiful cover. I picked it up and although I don’t read a ton of YA, its promise of a more sinister Wonderland piqued my interest further and I thought I’d give it a try. Am I glad I did! Splintered is author A.G. Howard’s debut YA novel, published in January of 2013, so I am a bit behind the times, but this actually works out for me because now I don’t have to wait for more in the series to satisfy that endless question: what happens next? The Moth in the Mirror, an E-novella was published in October of 2013, book two, Unhinged, was published January of 2014 and book three, Ensnared, is on bookshelves in January of 2015. Howard’s version of Wonderland is similar to the source material in some ways and totally off the wall in others, which made for an adventure that was fresh but relatable. Her innovations include a moth-like fairy boy (familiar) who Alyssa has known from childhood who becomes part of a love triangle that had me rooting for both suitors. Alyssa has complicated feelings for both Jeb and Morpheus, the Netherling boy, who shared her childhood dreams. She struggles for independence from the men in her life who alternately try too hard to protect her or control her. She is fiercely brave as she learns to fight for herself and her loved ones while accepting the warped reality of Wonderland. Her relationships with Morpheus and Jeb ring true with just the right amount of angst, tenderness, and teen awkwardness. She is a great protagonist. This is a gorgeous gothic fairy tale with the right amounts of romance, adventure, and introspection. Immerse yourself in the lush madness that is Splintered and enjoy the wild ride!

Review: Unhinged by A. G. HowardReview: Splintered by A. G. Howard

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