Review: ‘Unhinged’ by A. G. Howard


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 commented on a friend’s blog the other day about how it’s so true that when in your life you read a book has a huge impact on how you (well, I) feel about a book. Unhinged may be a good example of that … or maybe it is simply a better book than the first in the series, Splintered. (My review of Splintered is here if you want to compare.)

I read Unhinged in less than 24 hours; I read the first third while I was waiting to have surgery, and the rest of it after I’d had surgery, that night and the next morning. There were a lot of drugs in my system at the time. Maybe that enhanced the experience. I was a little worried that the book would have a lot of trippy Wonderland scenes in it, but it didn’t — which maybe is a good thing, because I didn’t really need a general anaesthetic Wonderland dream scaring the hell out of me!

This preamble is by way of telling you that while I loved the book, I couldn’t give you a blow-by-blow account of the plot if I tried. But that’s ok, because I never summarise the plot when I write a review anyway. (Why do people do that?) 😉

Unhinged is mostly set in the human world. Alyssa is determined to live her normal life and not give in to Morpheus’s demands that she abandon everything and live in Wonderland. I really respected her determination to do so, for a few reasons. One is that she has a family and friends, and a boyfriend, and it would’ve been more than a little crazy if she’d just run off. I also liked that as a lead she had the spine to stand up to the demanding bad boy, Morpheus, and say no. Not that many YA heroines achieve that.

It was a little unfortunate that she didn’t try and integrate both sides of her nature a little better in between the first and second books, but that’s one of the major plot arcs of Unhinged. There was character growth there, and it was very satisfying to see.

I still wasn’t wild about Alyssa’s boyfriend, Jeb. He’s not as physically domineering in book two, but I can’t help but feel that’s because he was off camera (so to speak) for a large part of it, so he never really got the opportunity. He does become a bit of a damsel in distress at one point, and she has to rescue him; I enjoyed the role reversal.

On the other hand, Morpheus, the other player in this love triangle, was very much front and centre, and just as charming, manipulative and obnoxious as he was in the first book. In a love triangle I usually prefer the nicer guy, the boy next door. In this book the choice is between a boy who does happen to live next door (Jeb) but whose attitude I don’t much like, and the bad boy who — while he no doubt has his appeal — is way too deceptive for me to cheer for him wholeheartedly. Instead, I find I’m on Team Alyssa; I want her to choose the guy who mends his ways and ultimately earns her respect and trust.

I am kinda hoping that’s Morpheus, though… 😉

One thing I didn’t notice in Unhinged that bothered me in Splintered was the over-the-top descriptions of clothing and settings. The setting descriptions weren’t as necessary, I guess, because it was mostly set in the human world. I’m not sure if the clothing descriptions weren’t as intense or if I was just less sensitive to it. (See previous comment about lots of drugs in my system.) Either way, it didn’t bother me this time around.

I’m really looking forward to the last book in this trilogy, whose cover is just as gorgeous as the first two. Did Howard hit the cover artist jackpot or what?!

Five stars

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