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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.
Wow, I think I said when I finished this one. Then I hurriedly ordered it so I could make sure I got it as soon as it came out. This book is really unbelievable. Really! It's definitely a fantasy but it's part mystery or should I say riddle and it's one magical, crazy, wild ride. I loved reading this novel so much I really didn't want it to end. Believe it or not, I was hoping all things wouldn't be resolved in this first novel. I was even okay with a cliffie, but not to worry. There is a definite ending.
So what made it so special? First, there is Alyssa. You really can't not like her. She's tough, grown up without a mother since she was five after a traumatic accident involving her mother. Her mother is in an asylum and talks to flowers and insects. She completely buys into the Alice in Wonderland theme wearing the clothes and the braids and she will only eat out of teacups. But Alyssa endures weekly visits to the asylum with her dad to see her mom which may or may not end with her drugged into a zombie like state. But, Alyssa has a disturbing kind of macabre artistic medium, bugs, that she uses to create landscapes. She stabs them with pins while they are living. Yeah, that's part of her dark side. But you see, Alyssa and her mother Alice are both part of the Liddel family and they have a supposed curse on them. Alyssa throughout the novel shows the struggle she has between the dark and light sides of herself and how trying to balance the two can drive one to madness. But, there is a secret to that, too. So many secrets.
Then there is Jeb. Good old next door neighbor, but he's not the all American boy. Not exactly a bad boy, but he isn't afraid to threaten, cajole, make a girl swoon, basically do anything to get what he wants. He has a lip piercing and works at the skate park. He also fixes Alyssa's car. And dates a mean girl. :( But he watches out for Alyssa and is the big brother of Alyssa's best friend Jenna. Can't say anything else without ruining the book! He's a good guy and we like him despite Tae. Blech!
And then there is Morpheus who I will forever picture as Johnny Depp. I can't see anyone else but him when I read about him. He's just charming enough to pull off the things he does and get away with them. You never know if a lie or the truth is slipping off his tongue but whatever it is, it's twisted around some kind of riddle that Alyssa will have to figure out and just when she thinks she's lifted the curse on her family, the tables turn. And she has to fight that side of her that is drawn to the darkness that is Morpheus, or maybe she needs to give in to it once and for all. She just doesn't know.
The writing, it is fabulous. You feel as turned around and twisted as the story is and Alyssa must feel. Some of it is nonsensical just like in Alice in Wonderland, but then you find there is an actual depth to the riddles that are spoken. And then some things are left out of the riddles for Alyssa to discover on her own. This is fantasy and it's crazy good! It was just so much fun to read and get turned around. I was as mad (as in twisted) as Alyssa and I just kind of grabbed onto her petticoat and hung on for the ride. So, so much fun! Sorry to say but much better than Alice in Wonderland! (Don't hate me!) The only thing I wish was that there had been pictures in the ARC. Though there might be in the novel.
Go buy it! Read it! Review it! Then you'll probably want to read it again. I know I do. But I really wanted to write a good review so other people would read this novel. There is some suggestive language in the novel, but other than that nothing else for parents to worry about. Oh and the soundtrack that A.G. Howard created to go along with the novel is perfect. Might want to listen to it while you're reading it if you can listen to music and read. I will be thinking of this novel for days and weeks to come. It's fascinating!
I received an E-ARC from the publisher through NetGalley for a fair and honest review. This did not influence my opinions in any way.