By A.G. Howard
Published 2013 by Amulet Books
Alyssa hears the whispering of insects and plants - a curse that has haunted the women in her family back to Alice Liddell. Yes - THAT Alice. But when her mother's mental health is even further endangered, Alyssa sets out to discover the truth about the curse and Alice and Wonderland - and don't they always say truth is stranger than fiction?
So, I am what you might call an Alice junkie - I love anything and everything Wonderland-related (pretty much) and I will read anything even tangentially connected to the Alice story (case in point: the dreadful Alice in Zombieland). I was thrilled to spot the e-galley of this on NetGalley and instantly requested it. The first reviews I saw were generally positive (I skimmed - I didn't want to ruin the book for myself) so I was cautiously optimistic when I got started.
Despite some initial eye-rolling (of course she's in love with her best friend and he doesn't know it - and of course she is uniquely beautiful and different), I thought this was incredibly well-done. As others have noted, this is not really a retelling of the Alice story. Howard uses Carroll's Wonderland as the starting point for, perhaps, an even weirder and more inventive story. I loved the creepy, unsettling, and crazy world that Howard has created - the prose is incredibly descriptive, making readers feel like they are experiencing this strange new Wonderland right alongside Alyssa.
In that same vein, Howard has taken Carroll's characters to new extremes - the bad guys are even more sinister than in Carroll's version and Alyssa is a bad-ass 21st-century version of Alice. These changes in characters and world-building lead to a number of twists and turns in the story and I always enjoy it when a book surprises me. I loved the journey that Alyssa took throughout this book - it is compelling and disturbing. This book will creep you out and draw you in all at the same time.
I found the romance with Jeb a bit too typical; however, the romance with Morpheus added a much greater depth to the story and I wish it had been explored even a bit more.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and will be interested to see what Ms. Howard does next. Give this to teens who like their fairy tales with a side of darkness.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via NetGalley.