Hey everyone! So for whatever reason this summer, I’ve been pretty much obsessed with everything Alice in Wonderland. (My guess is because it’s the ultimate escape from reality, especially since Wonderland makes about as much sense as the news lately.) So for this week’s Compare This! I decided to go thematically rather than by an author’s works. These are two very different series, but they are based on the same source material. Also, why not?
So let’s get the show on the road!
Alice in Zombieland series (by Gena Showalter)
Splintered series (by A.G. Howard)
Alice in Zombieland series by Gena Showalter
Summary: Alice “Ali” Bell’s family has always been eccentric. Her father always insisted that monsters were real and were out to get them. When his guard dropped, Ali realized he was right: monsters do exist. To avenge her family, Ali needs to learn to fight. To survive, she needs the help of the baddest boy in school, Cole Holland. But Cole has secrets and if she’s not carefully, Cole could be more dangerous than the zombies.
- I absolutely adore the characters in this series. They are so different, in many respects, from characters you usually see in YA. While being driven to protect those who can’t protect themselves, these guys are downright dangerous.
- Let’s not pretend the idea of mixing Alice in Wonderland with zombies is not intriguing. (And it’s done well!)
- I liked the subtlety of many of the connections to the source material. If it hadn’t been called Alice in Zombieland, it might not be as obvious what it was based on. So if you like feeling smart by finding Easter eggs throughout a novel, this is for you! Things like the white rabbit, time, madness, etc., find their way into the story from time to time.
- These zombies are not your run-of-the-mill dead guys eating brains zombies. They’re a unique kind of zombie I’ve never read about before and I am having a hard time putting into words what exactly they are. But it’s cool.
- I very much enjoyed the writing style of this series. Ali’s voice is clear and strong. You know it’s her because she’s always voicing her (strong) opinions about everything. It’s something I don’t always notice, but when it’s done right? I’m going to shout it from the rooftops.
- While I really enjoyed the first and the fourth books (the 4th book has a different narrator and it’s, pardon my 90s slang, DA BOMB), the 2nd and 3rd books kind of hit a little bit of a slump for me. They started becoming predictable.
- I also felt like the longer the series went on, the more unnatural the plot twists became. It felt like a soap opera after a while. But we are talking about a story involving zombies, so “unnatural” kind of comes with the territory, I guess.
- If you’re really looking for a good retelling of Alice in Wonderland, this isn’t it. As I kind of mentioned above, it’s really more of a spin-off that’s loosely based on the classic story. Sometimes this is good, other times it’s not.
Splintered series by A.G. Howard
Summary: Alyssa Gardner hears bugs and flowers talking to her. It’s the same thing that got her mother locked up in a mental hospital. The family curse stretches back to Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland. Alyssa’s managing for now. But when her mother’s health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was just a curse is a terrifying reality. Wonderland is real, and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever revealed. To save her mother, Alyssa must undo Alice’s mistakes and set Wonderland to rights.
- Now this is a bona fide Alice in Wonderland retelling. Alyssa’s family is totally Mad Hatter-crazy if they deny Wonderland long enough. And because this is a retelling, we’re visited by many of the characters we’ve come to love from the original story. It’s a new spin on an old story, so you still never quite know what’s going to happen.
- I really liked the characters, particularly the inclusion of Jeb, a childhood friend of Alyssa’s who’s looking for more. He really helped pull the story together, grounding it in a reality that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.
- The story is incredibly clever. It takes quite a bit of skill to weave all of this together, the old and the new. There’s also a lot of word play, foreshadowing, etc. Kudos to anyone who could do that well.
- There is tons of action in this series, mostly in the form of mind games but occasional fight scenes. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy a good puzzle. I liked trying to figure everything out before Alyssa did.
- I did think there were times when the story took the easy way out or over-foreshadowed something. The ending of at least two of the three books felt too convenient for what the series had set up. So while I was happy with what happened, I just wished it hadn’t been that easy.
- Y’all, I read the first two books in this series and couldn’t have told you what even happened. It encompasses all of the madness of Wonderland so well that I was constantly getting confused and not sure what was happening. (I’m interested to see if, upon rereading it, this is still the case.)
- Personally, I don’t like the feeling of realizing that everything I thought I knew about a story is suddenly wrong. This happened in multiple ways throughout the story (rules get rewritten on a whim by characters, betrayals, etc.) and it just rubs me wrong. But that’s my own irritation and I know that. Some/many of you will not probably have this same problem. I just like to trust that what the author tells us.
My Winner: Alice in Zombieland
Why? I like it for multiple reasons. First of all, I found I liked those characters better than I liked the characters in Splintered (though sometimes it was a close call). I liked the zombie angle because it was easier to understand than the return to Wonderland. I liked Showalter’s writing style and her sense of humor. And I felt like I got into the emotion of the story more.
It’s not that Splintered is not worth a read. It completely is. It’s utter madness and I have yet to find another YA book that is quite so mad. It’s fascinating. It’s just really weird and hard to understand. But I encourage you to try it.