This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. 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.
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I liked this book a lot. There were moments where I found that Jeb was too over protective, or Morpheus acted a little too childish to be believable as an ancient being, but the creativeness of the story always seemed to blur those moments over in my mind so that I quickly forgot them. Howard's Wonderland is definitely a more morbid place than the one we've all grown up thinking about as children. The description of Rabid White for instance...yikes. And the flowers...gruesome. Which was awesome. It was easy for me to picture this twisted Wonderland because she supplied such vivid details of it all, and I loved seeing familiar characters morphed into these crazy, somewhat vile, creatures. Alyssa was curious, which made her fit in with the Alice part wonderfully in my line of thinking, and I believed that she would do anything in order to help her mother. Killing off bugs because they spoke to you seemed sort of cruel in my mind, but it definitely added another dimension to her character. I also loved how she at least used the bodies in her art, giving them a purpose other than she just wanted them to shut up. Many of the events from Alice in Wonderland are touched in this book, like the mention of Alice crying out a river of tears. Things are given new light, and other aspects of Wonderland that we've never dreamed of before are presented. A down side, I found, to the book was, again, certain actions by the two male characters. The ending especially didn't seem to really match up to me, because if she made that sort of wish, then all the events of her trip should have been altered too dramatically for her to have ended up in the same place. Sorry about being vague there, but I don't want to give it away. Jeb acted over the top sometimes, so that instead of thinking he was protective, I thought he was acting like a control freak. Alyssa can clearly handle herself, for the most part anyway. However, he does come to this realization towards the end, and that was satisfying. Morpheus was awesome most of the time, but then didn't seem fleshed out enough others. I feel like there could have been a lot more explanation behind his motives, as well as how and why he was so attached to Alyssa. Was he as attached to her mother when he tried to convince her? I'm hoping these questions will all be dealt with in the next book, if not, then at least by the end of the series. I recommend reading this if you're interested in Alice and Wonderland, fairytale retelling, and/or fantasy. You don't feel bogged down by romance in this one, but there's just enough of it mixed in with the action and adventure. There's also the mystery aspect, and some creepy almost-spider looking creatures that will more then likely give you nightmares. Can't wait for the next book, that's for sure.