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.
At the start of the book, Alyssa is talking about her art. How she suffocates bugs and uses them to make art. This seemed so twisted and seemed to promise a dark Wonderland tale. But only sometimes did that promise came to fruition.
Unfortunately, it seemed like most of this book was Alyssa standing around asking questions or contemplating how she felt about a boy or how a boy feels about her. The parts of the story that actually explored Wonderland were dark and wonderfully creepy.
Alyssa is supposed to fix the things that Alice supposedly messed up while she was in Wonderland. This takes the story through many of the places that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland went but with a new dark twist. Easily the best scenes of the book were the ones that took us back to those places; the oyster-eating walrus, the talking flowers, the tea party.
The tea party scene in particular was wonderfully done. Some of Wonderland’s nonsense gets into Alyssa’s mind in this scene and it plays out beautifully even if it was pretty pointless. The whole reason they were there ended up not mattering at all as soon as the scene was resolved.
In a way, Morpheus was the most interesting character. While there is kinda-sorta a love triangle between Alyssa, Jeb, and Morpheus, it is obvious from the beginning that Alyssa and Jeb are going to be the end couple. But Morpheus was not really a good guy. He seems to be a product of the darkness that is this Wonderland so while he is not a bad guy he is also a far cry from a good guy. His and Alyssa’s part of the relationship is a little more interesting because of this maybe because it is not solidly romance, although romantic feelings and attraction is certainly there.
Hitting the right note on a re-imagining of an existing story can be very difficult. An author has to balance new elements that make the story interesting while still referring to the original story. As far as recreating Wonderland goes Ms. Howard certainly succeeded. But a story revolves around its characters and the romantic dynamics and drama between the main three characters took away from the awesomeness that was Wonderland.