March 05


Splintered by A.G. Howard – Review by Brian Wyzlic


Many who know me know I have a thing for the dark and mysterious, especially in literature. I enjoy the perilous universes of dystopian books. Edgar Allan Poe is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve worn that on my sleeve. Another favorite of mine whom I haven’t touted as loudly is Charles Dodgson, better known to readers of this blog as Lewis Carroll. In addition to being a published mathematician, he also wrote the Alice in Wonderland stories. As a teacher of math and English with a particular appreciation for geometry and linguistics, I must confess a bit of a man crush on good ol’ Mr. Dodgson.


So when I walked past the Abrams booth at NCTE this past November while wearing my Alice in Wonderland book cover t-shirt, I was immediately stopped and told about Splintered by A.G. Howard. Being told it was a YA re-telling of the Alice stories with a bit of a dark twist, how could I resist?


The story begins not with Alice in her Wonderland, but with Alyssa Gardner, the great-great-great-granddaughter of Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for the Alice tales. It appears that perhaps they were not tales, but a close-to-actual account of the adventures of the real Alice. But along with the adventure, there is a curse upon the women of the Liddell family. They all seem to be…how do I best put this? Insane. Like, talk-to-flowers-and-bugs insane. Alyssa’s mother, Alison, has taken up residence at a local asylum due to this curse. But of course, nobody knows or would believe that it’s a curse. How do you explain hearing insects talk? You don’t. You get locked up in a padded room.


Alyssa has also been showing signs of the curse, though she’s kept them hidden. Hidden from her father, hidden from her mother, and especially hidden from Jebediah Holt, Alyssa’s neighbor, confidant, and long-time crush. She doesn’t want to end up like her mother. She doesn’t want to lose her grip on reality.


But reality seems to have other ideas. When a giant moth pops up in her life (and her dreams), she does a bit of research. It appears there’s more than meets the eye to this thing called reality. Things keep adding up, and it soon becomes clear to Alyssa that Wonderland is real. And if she wants to break her family’s curse, she must venture down the rabbit hole and fix the things Alice left askew when she had her adventures.


But that’s just the beginning of the story. There’s more than meets the eye with the curse, just as there is more than meets the eye with the Liddell bloodline. Alyssa discovers things about her family, herself, and the truth of reality as she is guided through Wonderland by her ever-present companions: a shape-changing moth and a human-who-can’t-be-known-to-be-human. You know, just your standard fare of friends in a world where up is white and black is east.


Long-time fans of the Lewis Carroll stories, and especially the Tim Burton movie adaptation, will find a lot of nostalgic joy in Splintered. We encounter a lot of the classic Alice scenes and characters (the growing and shrinking cake and potion, the ocean of tears, the white rabbit, everyone’s favorite caterpillar), but with A.G. Howard’s own unique spin on them. It seems that the story Lewis Carroll wrote down was missing some of the exact details, and we see the macabre reality of it all as Alyssa finds her way through. The Wonderland world we find in this book is much darker than the Disney movie, and darker even than the Carroll tales, but seem to fit the bill perfectly for our story here.


If you’re looking for something dark, mysterious, and just a bit off-kilter from the standard fare of YA lit, I highly recommend Splintered by A.G. Howard. Take a trip down the rabbit hole to experience Wonderland in a new and interesting way. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.


Want to read Splintered right now? Guess what? YOU CAN! Just enter the giveaway below. One winner will be randomly selected to receive a hardcover copy of A.G. Howard’s Splintered.

Editor’s Note: okay, so it’s not really “right now.” To do that, you could head to your local bookstore and buy a copy. And even that would take a few minutes, sure. But this way will be free. So that’s kind of nice, eh?




Brian Wyzlic is currently a 6-12 math teacher in Hale, Michigan. He has a passion for helping his students become readers, though, no matter what subject he teaches, which is why he also has over 1000 books in his classroom. He hopes you have a passion for something, too, and probably fully supports you in that. Unless it’s like, oh, burning books. He just can’t bring himself to support that. Brian can be found on Twitter at @brianwyzlic and on the blogosphere at Wyz Reads. He wishes you an absolutely gorgeous day. And pie. Everyone should have more pie.