I’m a sucker for Alice in Wonderland stories, especially those that act as continuations or sequels. I’m especially fascinated by those that focus on the more macabre and surreal elements. The examples that come immediately to mind are the Tim Burton film (natch), American McGee’s game “Alice: Madness Returns,” and the classic Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers video for ” Don’t Come Around Here No More.” Cake, anyone?
I don’t remember now how Splintered came to my attention…did I see an ad for it? Was it recommended on Goodreads or Amazon? Not sure, but it caught my eye. I was in need of a new audiobook (yes, I listen to audiobooks at night after my eyes get tired from reading all day) so I bought it.
THE PLOT: Teenage Alyssa Gardner is a descendent of Alice Liddell, THE Alice. Unfortunately, every female in the line eventually goes mad, including Alyssa’s mother, who has been institutionalized since Alyssa was five. Alyssa’s neighbor and crush, Jeb, has family issues of his own, but he’s always been there for Alyssa…until recently, when he hooked up with his new girlfriend (the school’s version of Paris Hilton).
Like her mother before her, Alyssa has started to hear insects and flowers talk, and her research on the family curse inadvertently breaks a pact her mother had made to keep her safe. Now Alyssa is heading down the rabbit hole with Jeb in tow since he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But they get more than they expected when they meet Morpheus, a mysterious yet familiar character who has an agenda of his own.
MY TWO CENTS: I am not a teenager nor a particularly young adult, so I’m not going to get involved in a “Team Jeb versus Team Morpheus” type debate. I will say this, though: Morpheus is like a mixture of some of my very favorite fictional characters—a generous helping of the Phantom of the Opera (musical version), a sprinkling of Jareth from the movie Labyrinth, a couple spoonfuls of Julian from L.J. Smith’s Forbidden Game trilogy, and a dollop of Captain Jack Sparrow to finish him off. There’s also something of a glam rock star about him.
So, yeah, I LOVE Morpheus. I love him as a character. It might be partially because the audiobook narrator, Rebecca Gibel, does such a good job with his voice. I’m not sure her Cockney accent is spot-on, but it’s close enough to capture the right feel.
I wonder if Gibel’s reading also contributes to my intense dislike of Jeb. Everything he says is so controlling and sometimes demeaning to Alyssa. For example, when he gets the word that she’s trying to score a fake passport, he barges into her house, accuses her of being mean to his girlfriend, and demands to know why she’s “acting out.” He KNOWS that Alyssa spent the day visiting her mother at the asylum, which must be hard for her no matter what happened there. And oh, yeah, Jeb is on his way to prom with the girl he’s moving to London with. Jerk. I don’t like Jeb. I NEVER get to like Jeb, no matter what he does.
Gibel’s reading may make Alyssa seem slightly weaker than how she comes across on the written page. I don’t really fault Gibel for that; she’s trying to give emotion and drama to her reading, so when Alyssa is frightened or uncertain, that’s magnified in the audio.
BOTTOM LINE: I liked the book well enough to also purchase a paper copy so I can really absorb it, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming sequel, Unhinged. For me, though, the big draw is definitely Morpheus. I look forward to finding out what his next plans are for Alyssa, and what charming velvet hat he wears while manipulating her.
TEACUP RATING: I’m going to do something a little different…stars are so overdone! So I’m going to award teacups from now on instead. I’d give the story itself 3 to 3½ teacups, but Morpheus gets a whole teacup just on his own, which brings the total to 4 to 4½ teacups.