Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Five Star Spotlight - Unhinged by A.G. Howard

It's always a good post when it's a Five Star Spotlight. After all, these are books that are favorites and wonderful, spectacular reads. This series showcases all of those books, and today we are talking about a series you've probably seen mentioned on this blog once...or twice...or every other post. Well, now I'm going to be adding another book from this series. That is Unhinged by A.G. Howard. Unhinged is the sequel to my favorite book from 2013, Splintered. Splintered is a retelling of Alice in Wonderland, and how generations later, Alice's descendant Alyssa finds herself drawn into Wonderland as she tries to help Wonderland after the destruction left by Alice. Alyssa is joined by her Wonderland guide Morpheus, who is probably smugly seated in the Top 10 or 5 of my favorite characters (let me know if you want a post on my favorite characters, by the way) and Jeb, Alyssa's best friend. If you haven't yet read Splintered, this review does contain spoilers for the first book. So, I'll link you to Splintered on Goodreads and you can start there and read that book. I would definitely recommend this series- it's one of my favorites in YA, and arguably my favorite YA series aside from The Mortal Instruments. So, definitely check out Splintered (it has an amazing cover!).

I'll include Splintered's info here before the rest so that if you haven't read the series, you can view it and add it on Goodreads. And see the pretty cover!

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.

And now, if you've read Splintered, let's talk about Unhinged.

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.

Unhinged was a sequel I've been looking forward to since January of last year. This series is beautifully written. The descriptions and world building is unique to each book. This installment was interesting because it was full of intrigue and peril as well as world building. I don't want to give away spoilers, so I will simply add that Red is still a danger to everything, and so Alyssa's journey in this book is influenced by this foreboding. Red is still a very real danger, and Alyssa is trying to cling to the mortal life she chose. While I was initially frustrated about this indecision, it's something that her character has to struggle with and is a divide between who she essentially is. So Alyssa's internal conflict was something that never bothered me too much because I found it natural for her character to be so divided. This book saw a lot of growth for Alyssa as a character, even though she'd already done so much in the past book. 

It also featured my favorite character, Morpheus, developing more as well, which I was very excited to see. Morpheus is an enigmatic sort, and seeing more of who he is really made this book even more amazing than I could have hoped for. I think one of my favorite things about Morpheus's characterization was that it was in relation to Alyssa learning more about him as well. There were moments when her distrust of him frustrated me because it wasn't a true representation of Morpheus's actions and character, but as the book went on, Morpheus really grows as a character and someone I loved reading about even more.

 The third main character, Jeb, also had some character development, but I found myself liking his character less in this story. Of course, since Jeb is obviously missing something essential from the first book that Morpheus, Alyssa, and her mother already have, then the book's more fantastical elements were some that he couldn't have grasped. But as a boyfriend to Alyssa, I found Jeb's character to be distracted and careless at times. Regardless, as the story went on, he wasn't a character that I couldn't stand reading about, but Jeb was one who I had conflicted feelings about. 

Another such character was Alyssa's mother. After the craziness in the last book, I was looking forward to Alyssa and her mom having a great dynamic as they finally understood each other. But there is more complexity to this mother-daughter relationship, and the two aren't the fairy tale happy ending that it seemed in Splintered. I found that this was a really unique aspect to the book- the interactions between these two were filled with twists and turns as they tried to understand each other and in regards to everything that happened. I wasn't a fan of Alyssa's mother for the majority of the book, but her and Alyssa's time together was written unlike any two characters in this series. There's a lot to understand about the other, and Alyssa's mother doesn't seem to help in the beginning, but Alyssa has some issues between the two as well. This was something I hadn't expected in the book, but definitely added another layer to Alyssa's life after Splintered.

Although I could continue to talk about all of the characters, and the awesome character development for the supporting characters, I want to talk about the plot. The pacing of the story is very different from Splintered. There was less action and adventure throughout, and instead more intrigue and build up to the ending. There were more plot twists in this book, and the plot seemed more gritty and I think it fit the setting as well. This plot focused more on the internal conflict in Alyssa and how she grows as a character. There wasn't much world building, and I'm going to avoid spoilers and just say that it fit this book to focus more on characters than world. I missed some of the more fantastical elements in the world building, but I loved how much we got to learn about the characters. They really were amazingly complex as the story developed.

This is a Five Star Spotlight, so my rating of it isn't a mystery. I loved this book, and this series is one of my all time favorites. This is a great continuation, and it was a sequel that made me love these characters even more. So, that is my latest five star rating, and I hope you all enjoy it as well!

From the paper world,


  1. Great review! I loved this too <3

    1. I remember fangirling with you about it! Love this series! Thanks for stopping by


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