Published by Harry N. Abrams on January 6th 2015
Genres: Adaptations, Fairy Tales & Folklore, Fantasy & Magic, General, Young Adult
Buy on: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
“A childish story take, and with a gentle hand, lay it where Childhood's dreams are twined in Memory's mystic band...thus grew the world of Wonderland.”
― A.G. Howard, Unhinged
Alyssa Gardner has been down the rabbit hole. She was crowned Queen of the Red Court and faced the bandersnatch. She saved the life of Jeb, the boy she loves, and escaped the machinations of the disturbingly appealing Morpheus. Now all she has to do is graduate from high school. 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. Could she leave Jeb and her parents behind again, for the sake of a man that she knows has manipulated her before? Will her mother and Jeb trust her to do what’s right? Readers will swoon over the satisfying return to Howard’s bold, sensual reimagining of Carroll’s classic.
Review: Caution! There will be spoilers. Proceed at your own risk!!
While I adored Howard’s re-imagining of Wonderland in the first novel, setting the second book in the “real world” was a nice twist. In Unhinged, Alyssa struggled between adapting to being back in her “real” life as Jeb’s girlfriend, and with her mother back home, and the call to return to Wonderland. When Alyssa failed to act on her dreams of a Wonderland in peril, Morpheus arrives to disrupt her normal teenaged existence. Watching Alyssa struggle with having to share her father with her mother, and butting heads with the woman she’s wanted to have a relationship with for so long grounded the story, and made Alyssa relatable. Plus, it also was great fun to unravel the mystery of who Alyssa’s mother really is, and what motivates her. After the reveal at the end of Spintered that Alison had pretended to be insane all those years, the idea that she might be more formidable than previously thought added an extra layer of intrigue. I also enjoyed Alyssa’s jealousy and insecurity over Jeb’s new grown-up life.
“He puts it on, and his gaze locks to mine. His jewels flicker between passion and defiance—an evocative and intimidating combination. “Fair warning, I intend to make good use of that time. I will be gentle, but I will not be a gentleman. You will be the center of my world. I’ll show you the wonders of Wonderland, and when you’re drunk on the beauty and chaos that your heart so yearns to know, I will take you under my wings and make you forget the human realm ever existed. You’ll never want to leave Wonderland or me again.”
Aside from Alyssa’s home life, I have to admit I really enjoyed Morpheus in this book. Unlike many readers, I’m still not aboard the Morpheus fangirl train, but I do now feel he’s a viable threat to Alyssa’s happily every after with Jeb. Morpheus awakens Alyssa’s dark side, and makes her feel free in ways Jeb doesn’t seem to be able to do. On the other hand, Jeb offers just as much passion, but also safety and security. While Jeb enthralls Alyssa’s human side, Morpheus is her netherling equal. It will be interesting to see who she picks at the end, and I suspect many fans will not be happy with her decision. Something Ivory said to Alyssa sparked me as foreshadowing.
One aspect of the story I didn’t like was how careless Alyssa was. This made her seem different from the brave girl who jumped down a rabbit hole in the first book to save her mother. Instead, Alyssa’s insecurities brought about all the bad things that happened to her and her loved ones, and made her appear weak. Still, in retrospect, I believe those insecurities and jealousies that clouded Alyssa’s judgement were all a part of her Red Queen heritage. In light of how this book ends, this character flaw made more sense.
Do I Recommend?
Yes! Though this book was very different from the first book in character and setting, the addition of Alyssa’s mother and the Wonderland creatures wreaking havoc in the “real world” made this book read like a stronger entry to this series. We learn more about Alyssa’s family, and Morpheus’ motives and feelings towards Alyssa were better written. I could say so much more about this book, but don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll table those thoughts for my review of Ensnared.
Have you read this book? What did you think? Whose team are you on – Jeb or Morpheus? Share your thoughts in the comments below!