Monday, January 13, 2014

Unhinged by AG Howard

Unhinged by AG Howard

Published by Amulet Books

On Shelves Now

Reviewed by Middle Sis Jenn

The Sisters Say:  Delightfully Wicked, Enigmatic, and Sexy
Alyssa Gardner has been down the rabbit hole and faced the bandersnatch. She saved the life of Jeb, the guy she loves, and escaped the machinations of the disturbingly seductive Morpheus and the vindictive Queen Red. Now all she has to do is graduate high school and make it through prom so she can attend the prestigious art school in London she's always dreamed of.

That would be easier without her mother, freshly released from an asylum, acting overly protective and suspicious. And it would be much simpler if the mysterious Morpheus didn’t show up for school one day to tempt her with another dangerous quest in the dark, challenging Wonderland—where she (partly) belongs.

As prom and graduation creep closer, Alyssa juggles Morpheus’s unsettling presence in her real world with trying to tell Jeb the truth about a past he’s forgotten. Glimpses of Wonderland start to bleed through her art and into her world in very disturbing ways, and Morpheus warns that Queen Red won’t be far behind.

If Alyssa stays in the human realm, she could endanger Jeb, her parents, and everyone she loves. But if she steps through the rabbit hole again, she'll face a deadly battle that could cost more than just her head

So, you know that I LOVED AG Howard’s debut novel, Splintered.  It was a magnificent re-imagining of the Alice in Wonderland story.  Seriously, falling down a rabbit hold never sounded so good.  Then came Unhinged.  Oh how glad I am to say that it definitely does not fall into the “sequel slump.”  Unhinged will pull you straight through the looking glass, right back into that mad, mad world of Wonderland.  Only this time, Wonderland is invading our world; and only Alyssa can stop it.

I will say I missed the creepiness of Wonderland, and more than once, I wanted to scream at Alyssa to shun our world and go diving back down the rabbit hole because that is where she belongs.  However, it was great to see how Wonderland could twist the reality of our own world.  The macabre and gruesome were anything but missing—creepy slinking goo piles of oil, a treacherous sister with spider legs, angry flowers bent on burying people alive.  All these wonderfully eerie creatures are hiding in plain sight, just waiting for you to turn the page and let them loose.

I really love Alyssa, even when she is stupid, I still love her.  She is strong and determined, and she is so very much like us.  Alyssa is tired of everyone telling her what she should and should do (who wouldn’t be), who she should and shouldn’t be—and there comes a point where you can really feel her frustration.  She wants to be Netherling at times, human at others—but she’s both, and learning to meld those two identities is her greatest struggle.  While I wanted to scream at her at times because she was missing the obvious, I still really enjoyed watching her embrace her true self (human and netherling, but stronger than both).

Oh the debate of boys.  I am still Team Morpheus all the way.  In fact, I really dislike Jeb.  He just isn’t Wonderland enough for her.  Even when he knew what she was in Splintered, he just didn’t give her what she needed.  He’s too vanilla while Alyssa is goth style rainbow sherbert.  Don’t ask me what that is, but you know what I mean.  I can see that Jeb is heroic and loyal, but he seems to drop her for his career in this book.  Not to mention that she can’t really be herself around him—even if he knew the truth, I think she would always be trying to be more human for him.

Now, I know you could argue that if she ended up with Morpheus, she couldn’t truly be herself either because he wants more of her Netherling side.  But, when you look back at all the memories of their childhood, he does accept her human side.  In fact, it is Morpheus that shows her how to meld them into her true identity.  I just wish she would see him for what he really is—he may hide behind illusion and riddles, but his love for her is clear (albeit selfish at times).  I love Morpheus’s personality—strong and protective, elusive with a big dose of grandeur, and sexy, sexy, sexy. 

AG Howard has brought Wonderland to life once again, and I praise her for making me such an adamant fan of her world.  Her poetic words bring life to the macabre creatures, and her imagination and creativity makes her characters a brilliant mystery.  And then that ending!!!  OH MY GOSH!!!!  I both loved and hated it—such a cliffhanger, but at the same time, I loved seeing Alyssa embrace her destiny.