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.
This sounded so fun. It’s a new take on the Alice in Wonderland story where our protagonist, Alyssa, is a descendant of the original Alice. Alyssa learns that because of Alice there is a curse placed on the women of her family so that they hear bugs and flowers talk and go insane. Sounds awesome, right?!? And all the plot twists and turns and the way the story plays out is super fun and interesting. A.G. Howard, you know how to storyboard a tale.
You just suck at execution.
The actual writing of this book was so bad. So, so bad. Everything was over-the-top over-explained. We learned about each character with a few paragraphs of info dumping splattered throughout the book. Every time Alyssa thought of anything the narration would explain it so that nothing could be questioned. As a reader it’s extremely boring to read a book like this: “My resolve was beginning to soften so I stepped back even though I didn’t really want to, feeling the magnetism between us. I wanted him and I was pretty sure he wanted me but there was no way I would make a move on a boy that might have a girlfriend even though there were plenty of moments that let me know he was interested.(*not an actual quote, but you get the idea)” All of this could have been said with body language. In fact, it WAS all said with body language. First Howard would spell out what characters were feeling with what they did. Then, so there wasn’t any doubt about what was going down in this story, she would spell it out with actual spelling. So. Much. Explaining. We are not idiots, Ms Howard.
That was another thing: The love triangle and romancey parts were just… cheesy. They felt very much like sappy, trashy romance novels. There was lots of staring at other, wondering what the other was feeling. Lots of unnecessary uncertainty. A whole lot of Alyssa questioning herself and what she really feels. Way too much back and forth, “does he like me? I can’t let him see how I really feel”. And then when we finally did reach a kiss scene it was weird as to be uncomfortable and unsatisfactory. Like, there were growly noises and soft groans and “giving in” and all that cheesy stuff. But it was abrupt, the scenes didn’t have time to build and it made me feel cheap to read them. I also don’t understand why Alyssa was attracted to Jeb or Morpheus as both of them seemed more big-brotherly or fatherly to her than romantic. They both told her what to do and tried to keep her from learning things and tried to manipulate her into doing what they wanted and had weird/creepy sexual tension every time they were near and had a bizarre rivalry that I’m not even sure they understood. Gag.
One thing that bothered me a whole lot about this was that the entire book hinges on the fact that Alyssa’s great-great-great grandmother was Alice, who went to Wonderland. Alyssa even had family heirlooms and passed-down stories and knew something about her lineage.
But very early on in the book we are informed that Alyssa’s mother, Alison, was raised in the foster care system without a family. How would Alison have learned of her heritage? Her ancestry? The stories of her family? How would she have received family heirlooms? I just–There’s so much that Alison and Alyssa wouldn’t know about their families and who they were. So many stories that wouldn’t have been passed down. I don’t understand how Howard could overlook something as huge as that. Either that or she knows nothing of foster care.
Dialogue was ridiculous. Not in a good way. There were cheesy one-liners all over the place. Actually most of the dialogue was cheesy. Jeb said more than most boys would about feelings and stuff. Morpheus wasn’t nearly as cryptic as Alyssa thought he was. Once Alyssa was under the influence of some kind of Wonderland food and she kept thinking she was spouting nonsense when, in fact, what she was saying made perfect sense, it was just dumb. I did actually appreciate the way some of the minor characters had their own way of speaking; That was kind of fun. For the most part it was just cheesy and over-explained. Too much. All the time. Got so sick of it. Like you should be now.
I did finish the whole book even though I just dragged through it. The plot was so interesting and well-developed that I wanted to find out what happened even though the writing was so bad. Despite the love triangle, I really did like the way the story played out and am curious about the rest of the series but can’t decide if I will read another book by A.G. Howard. I may wait until she releases a few more books before I pick up her most recent, hoping her writing skills will have caught up to her storyboard skills. Only time will tell.
Anyway, many people have enjoyed this book. If you’re into twists on the Alice story and don’t care about poor writing and cheesy romance you might also like it. But if good writing and non-cheesiness are important to you in your reading you’ll probably want to skip this one.
Sexual Content: Mild
Drugs/Alcohol: Moderate (weird Wonderland stuff and insane asylum meds