Splintered is about a girl named Alyssa Gardner in London who is a descendant of Alice, the Alice who inspired Lewis Carroll's book Alice in Wonderland. Alyssa can hear in English language the conversations and words of bugs all around her, to the point where it always sounds like a thousand crickets are all around her. Then one day, her mother Alison, who has always lectured her on Wonderland, ends up going crazy in the middle of the street with her necklace apparently choking her with a mind of its own, and Alyssa finds out the only way to save her from electroshock therapy is to cure her of a curse descended upon her by someone in Wonderland, a place with a boy she once dreamed about as a small child. Upon figuring out Wonderland is real, she has to step through the looking glass and stop the curse, all the while fixing these catastrophes the old Alice apparently wreaked on the land, the ocean made of her tears and all.
There are several moments where I didn't enjoy the writing. There were times when A.G. Howard was describing something, and I sort of saw what she had in mind but still felt it could've been done better. One example was when she describes a curtain made of water and described it as an enchanted downfall. I wasn't sure if the water was suspended or forever falling like a downpour and going back up, because a curtain made of waterfall otherwise would flood the whole house, er, nut, er, thingy. Another time was on the ocean in Wonderland, Jeb and Alyssa are riding on a boat and talking. Alyssa says, "I hope he has a crumb he could save for me." Then I thought, Wait, she turned back to normal size, and to prove that they can hear each other and while Jeb was tall and Alyssa was short, Jeb couldn't hear anything she was saying. So why does she say crumb? And is she still short but still loud enough? There was also a moment early on when a website pops up explaining Wonderland, and Alyssa isn't really surprised by it. She immediately goes into it like she intended to find it. I'm not usually this critical toward writing, but I just thought since I paid attention enough, I might as well write down my findings.
Despite all these flaws in the writing, they don't take away from the fact that this is one of the best stories I have picked up in quite some time, compared to some of the other unoriginal (Ruined) or overly romantic (Daughter of Smoke and Bone) or inept (Shallow Graves) pieces of work I've recently read. Splintered does have a romance side to it but this time it's genuine and doesn't feel vacuous or forced. It's even a little uplifting yet shrill. While it's true that we no longer use electroshock therapy to treat patients, it's a good idea to use that for this kind of story because apparently the real Alice woke up in the hospital as an eighty-two year old woman one day saying she was cocooned for years in Wonderland and she died two days later from the therapy, and it seems fitting to fit a dilemma like that when you're doing a sort of companion to Lewis Carroll's book, or for most people today, Tim Burton's movie.
I also really enjoyed how many ideas Howard had all around her own version of Wonderland, changing what we might know which doesn't feel like a betrayal because she explains how Alice might have interpreted differently. It's also clear Howard read Lewis Carroll's book carefully, and put herself in the shoes of a character who lives a life of singing insects. There are also questions everywhere, questions you'll ask yourself about what you would do in a situation: Who's right? Jeb or Morpheus? If you were Jeb, would you have killed Morpheus in this situation? Were you surprised about the way wishes work? I remember doing a sci-fi-esque speech about time travel in eighth grade and the theories I put about time travel reminded me of the zaniness of this book. It was a lot to take in and this actually took me weeks to read, but maybe it was because I was busy with exams. This book even nearly made me reach for the Goodreads page of Lewis Carroll's book, or the 2010 movie, just to see how Alice really unintentionally tampered with the magic world of magic Smurfs. When you are asked to yourself how time works; if it goes slower, faster, same speed, or freezes from the outside, and actually think about what you already read as a cause of your curiosity (that's at least how I felt) it's very clear you are at least finding the book fascinating. It also helps that when the book goes down the rabbit hole, you go to lots of places that honestly bring some killer cliffhangers.
In the end, Splintered has some confusing ways of description I'll admit, but it is also very different and doesn't shy away from the world it has built, or Lewis Carroll anyway.