Unhinged (A. G. Howard, 2014)

unhingedAlyssa 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.

(Text from goodreads)

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I read the first of Howard’s Splintered series about 6 months ago so it took me a few chapters to get back into the mood and setting of this second book, but after that I was on board the train of madness that spun its crazy web from Alyssa’s character.

It’s been a year since her first adventures in Wonderland, and her now boyfriend Jeb remembers nothing of it, and it would seem that on the surface everything is as it should be, even with her mum home and away from the asylum. However, as we know things, aren’t always as they would appear, and soon things start to go awry in the normal world with Wonderland creeping its way into Alyssa’s normal human life.

“Foreboding creeps into my heart: This trip to Wonderland will be the end of me. By sticking out my neck again, I’ll lose more than my normal, everyday life. This time I will lose my head, along with everything attached.”

I was not fully onboard these books to begin with, but I admit they’re definitely growing on me and I love the mixture of normal life with the madness of Wonderland – a Wonderland that is much different than what we think it is. I think the different characters are so well thought out and they have so many layers, with several being revealed in this book however covered by lies they might be. I especially liked how much Alyssa’s mother had a role to play in this book, I’m starting to like her otherwise fragile character because we got to see how much more there was to her, as well as Alyssa.

The two boys, well, I won’t even begin because they both bother me on different levels. Let’s just say that as much as I was annoyed by the cliff hanger ending, there were certain things that I thought was okay.

“The thrum starts at the back of my skull, a resurrection of my netherling side, almost as powerful as what I felt at the gym while standing in the flames. But my human side nudges me – a warning. Morpheus is the most magical and captivating creature I’ve ever known. And, other than in dreams, I’ve never spent more than a few hours alone with him at a time. How could I resist the darkness he summons inside me for an entire day and night?”

I liked how this book was almost a journey for Alyssa to get to know herself and who she actually is, both her human side and her netherling side. It pictures the question of identity that almost every teenager has, I think, and this was rather a clever way to put that theme into the book without making it too mundane. In this case it is actually two sides of her personality fighting to break out and face the world as the person she has to want to be.

There were so many interesting details about Wonderland that I would have like to read more about, the memory train for instance I found were some of the most interesting and captivating chapters. I found the concept of the memory train absolutely fascinating and so intriguing that I almost wished that I could go for a ride. Wonderland seems to me like a place with so many wonderful, yet mad things that are still left unexplored and I’m growing more and more curious to see what the last book will bring of Wonderland.

5 star

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