Written by: A.G. Howard
Published by: Amulet Books
Release date: January 7th 2014
Source: Borrowed from a friend
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
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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.
I have fallen hard for A.G. Howard’s version of Wonderland. I think this book cemented that even more for me, because even though it featured Wonderland less than I was expecting (at least as a location), Wonderland was still very much present as it begins to seep through into the Alyssa’s “real world” in ways she definitely wasn’t expecting.
I thought Unhinged was a fantastic sequel to Splintered. The stakes are higher, the pacing is nonstop, and there are even more secrets than I knew what to do with — and not just the ones Morpheus keeps to himself, as usual. The main draw of these books, for me, is Wonderland and the weird allure it has, so I am able to love the stories despite a few things that might normally turn me off to the books.
I really liked Alyssa’s character in Splintered — her tough attitude, and her drive to break her family’s “curse” to help her mom. But to be honest, Alyssa bothered me in Unhinged, mostly because of her unnecessary stubbornness, mostly regarding Morpheus. After his actions for her at the end of Splintered, I guess I couldn’t really get a good handle on why she was still so dead-set against him. I’d understand if she were just being cautious, but she seems to always think the worst about his motivations, and that might have been taking it a little far. She finally starts to see sense as the book progresses, but even so, I feel like that was a little bit similar to how her feelings for him progressed in the first book. It was like his slate had been wiped clean and we were back to square one with her not trusting anything about him. Maybe her fear of her Netherling side played a part in her stubbornness to see the good in Morpheus, but it seemed less like uncertainty of herself and more like she was just being contrary for its own sake.
Jeb also, unfortunately, was not able to win me over at all in Unhinged. In fact, I like him even less now than I did after Splintered. I had some issues with his character in the first book, mostly because of what I saw as an “I-know-better-than-you” attitude. This is less pronounced in Unhinged, but I also saw another side of Jeb that I liked even less. Jeb’s jealousy of Morpheus (or of any possibility that Alyssa might like Morpheus) is really pronounced in Unhinged. His reactions to Morpheus are very disconcerting at times, and I find the differences between their reactions to each other to be extremely telling. Jeb’s reactions border on violent (and more than “border” on violent, in one scene), which is a stark contrast to Morpheus’s very even-keeled attitude. Morpheus also (to an extent) respects that Alyssa cares for Jeb, and he goes so far as to save Jeb’s life and help Jeb, on more than one occasion. I don’t feel like Jeb would be very easily convinced to return that favor.
This sort of brings me into the main reason why I love these books, which is — Morpheus. His character is everything weird and strange and dark and tempting about Wonderland; and as convoluted as his machinations might be, all his actions are geared toward fighting for his home — and for Alyssa. This makes him a great sort of anti-hero. We rarely get to see through any of the cracks in his self-assured and cocky armor. But despite his tendency to conceal his motivations, and his overall disingenuous attitude, those underlying motivations are for the good of Wonderland, and to protect Alyssa. One of my favorite things about this book is that we get to see even more of his more “human” side, if you will. We get to see what makes him vulnerable. He may have a hard time being genuine and candid, but the views through the chinks in his armor are what keep me coming back for more.
There is one thing, though, that I’m a little worried about, and that’s the resolution of this Morpheus/Alyssa/Jeb triangle. I do want to go into a little bit of vague spoilers, so read on at your own risk… View Spoiler »So, something is revealed in Unhinged that makes me afraid that the resolution of this love triangle is going to be one that I really really don’t like. I do like it when main characters take a stand, pick a side, and stick to it. I don’t like it when a too-good-to-be-true, you-can-have-both! scenario is offered up as a “resolution”, and the main character doesn’t have to pick anything. Especially when that resolution is then looked upon with even more emotional turmoil. -_- Idk guys, I just like situations where a character makes a choice because she’s learned something about herself or someone else that makes her go, “This is the guy I need to be with.” These sort of “no but wait, you don’t actually have to pick a side!” resolutions are just… mehhhhh. Too good to be true. They feel like a bit of a cop-out, if I’m being honest. I don’t like them one bit. « Hide Spoiler I could be totally wrong in my complaints though, because this might not actually end up happening. If it doesn’t, I will be over-the-moon. So. *fingers crossed*
But enough about that. Another thing I loved about Unhinged, and something that really surprised me, is Alyssa’s parents’ involvement. I can’t say too much about it, because those would be major spoilers. But I can say that, when I realized her mom would be playing a much bigger part in the story, I was a little worried. As much as I don’t like it when parents are completely out of the picture in YA (let’s be realistic here), sometimes they do need to be background characters. However, my worry was for nothing. I loved that Alyssa’s mom gets to play a bigger part in Unhinged, and Alyssa’s dad… well, let’s just say that despite his ignorance about Wonderland, he still has a part to play, and I love that.
What it comes down to, really, is pretty simple: FEELS. Despite my issues with Alyssa and Jeb, which would normally be pretty big issues, there’s something about Howard’s writing that always succeeds in pulling me into the story and immersing me in this world that she’s created. Wonderland is wonderfully dark, and I’m more than a little in love with it — and of course the same goes for Morpheus. I find his character endlessly fascinating, and he really does make this book, for me. Despite my issues, Unhinged brought the FEELS, so I’ve got to give it major points for that. I really liked it, and I am absolutely positively dying for Ensnared. 2015 is too far away!!